In the late 1940’s young Reverend Robert Meneilly was charged with starting a new Presbyterian church and assigned the area of Prairie Village. Real estate agreements, however, disallowed church services unless there was a church building in which to hold services. As an experiment, small Presbyterian churches donated $100,000 to start the church.
Before the Sanctuary was built, the Meneillys went door to door, so that when the first service was held on Feb 13, 1949 there were 282 new members. Today there are over 4000.
Fast-forward to the 1960’s, a time of great unrest. Rev. Meneilly – Dr. Bob known by a few – recognized the need to fight for all people’s rights. He did not accept poor treatment of minorities and stood firm in his beliefs about equal rights. Progressive in his thoughts, he wanted to unite the city with the suburbs. He spoke out in newspapers, at meetings, and from his pulpit.
The Kansas City Star even reprinted one of his powerful sermons on the front page. “I don’t get so much criticism from my own congregation but I get letters and crank phone calls from other people.” The County Squire also reprinted one of his sermons in their March 11 and 18, 1965 editions (see below). He received several threats, as did his children by their classmates. However, his congregation helped him through this period.
In 1993, along with five others, he started the Mainstream Coalition, a group that believes “people with different points of view can come together to forge good government that benefits all citizens.”
Rev. Meneilly’s sermons in The County Squire:
Part 1: March 11, 1965 (page 3)
Part 2: March 18, 1965 (page 25)
For further research on Rev. Meneilly, see the finding aid for the collection housed by the Johnson County Museum located at the Arts and Heritage Center.