Phil Anderson

phil anderson | FAITH AND VALUES

Phil Anderson has been covering the Topeka religious community since 1989. Always looking for a good story, Phil welcomes your ideas and suggestions.

Making a case for Christianity

July 24, 2015

God makes sense of confusion

To quote the title of a Temptations song from 1970, the world today seems to be a “Ball of Confusion.”

In the midst of the strife both at home and abroad, it is often left to religious leaders or philosophers to make sense of it all.

In his new book “True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World” (InterVarsity Press, softcover, 176 pages, $15), author David A. Skeel Jr. says Christianity is uniquely positioned to answer many of the most pressing questions of the hour.

Skeel asserts Christianity proves more than able to handle the most perplexing questions of the day — including the topics of suffering and the inability of humans to create a just social order.

Ultimately, Skeel presents the argument that only God can make sense of the turbulence that is swirling around the world today.

Finding Christ in the chaos

July 12, 2015

Parents often tell their young children to sit still and be quiet during church services.

It may never be known whether moms or dads actually believe their children will behave as instructed, as sitting still and being quiet are foreign to the experience of most young children.

With that in mind, First Lutheran Church, 1234 S.W. Fairlawn, has started a new kid-friendly worship service called “Christ in the Chaos.”

The service, which takes place once a month in the summertime in the church’s fellowship hall, allows kids — and, yes, their parents — to play with toys on the floor, get up and move around and make a little noise if they want to do so. A light lunch follows for those in attendance.

The next “Christ in the Chaos” service will take place at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, July 12, at First Lutheran.

The service was the idea of the Rev. Jenny Jackson, 29, a married mother of two young sons who is the associate pastor at First Lutheran.

From first-hand experience, Jackson understands the challenges faced by parents of young children when it comes to getting them to church on Sunday mornings.

First comes the parents winning the battle of the snooze alarm and getting themselves up — a monumental struggle in itself on most Sundays.

Then comes waking up the little sleepyheads, getting them breakfast and dressing them for church.

Then comes rounding them up and getting them strapped into their seats in the minivan.

And finally comes being at church as a family. And that is where the adventure really begins, when parents hold their breath, not knowing what their kids might do.

Jackson and her husband, Austin, also 29, have two young sons, Lucas, 3, and Samuel, 9 months.

Jackson said she sees her husband juggling the kids during church “and doing it so very wonderfully.” But she also knows the difficulties of getting kids to church — even with the presence of a nursery for the children.

Because of the challenges of bringing little kids to church, Jackson said, some just quit coming.

“We have a family in our church with two young kids,” Jackson said. “They just about stopped coming because it was so much of an effort.”

Jackson said “Christ in the Chaos” is designed for parents who may feel awkward or embarrassed from the unpredictable behavior of their young kids in a church service.

At the first “Christ in the Chaos” service in June, several parents played with their children on the tile floor in front of several rows of folding chairs, with about 25 people in attendance.

After the service, Jackson said, “It was fun. It was really great. I was expecting a little more chaos, because that was the theme of the service, but it was great.”

Juli Tinoco, who played on the floor with her daughter, Viviana, 3, and son, Remmy, 2, said she enjoyed being with her children at the service.

“So many times, parents don’t want to come to church because their kids make noise,” Tinoco said, “but God meets us everywhere. He’s with us here in the chaos.”

Greeting Easter at break of day

April 4, 2015

Up until a few years ago, members of several North Topeka churches gathered for sunrise services each Easter Sunday morning at Rochester Cemetery, located on a picturesque hill at 1200 N.W. Menninger Road.

Then, a few years ago, the services no longer were held, though no one seems to know why that was the case.

The Rev. Francis Stockton, pastor of St. Peter’s United Methodist Church, said he recently was discussing with members of his congregation what kind of celebration they would like to have for this coming Easter.

“I told them it would be nice to have a service in a natural setting, out in the country,” Stockton said. “They told me, ‘We used to have a service every year out at Rochester Cemetery.’ I told them, ‘That sounds neat,’ and we checked on having the sunrise service out here at the cemetery.”

After getting approval for the gathering from cemetery officials, Stockton did his part, inviting several other area churches to take part in the service, which will begin at 6:30 a.m. Easter Sunday, April 5, at the north end of the cemetery, near a large granite marker that depicts the Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples.

Stockton said Easter songs, accompanied by a guitarist, will be featured during the service. Several local clergy also are scheduled to participate.

One of the best parts of having the service in a quiet place like the cemetery is that it allows worshipers to quiet their minds and reflect on Jesus’ resurrection. The natural setting afforded by the cemetery provides the perfect backdrop, Stockton said.

“I will prepare remarks,” Stockton said, “but it’s really not necessary. You can just let nature preach on Easter Sunday — it was dark and now it’s light. That’s the message, isn’t it?”

Several other churches and groups across the Topeka vicinity will have sunrise services on Sunday morning:

■ Countryside United Methodist Church, 3221 S.W. Burlingame, will have a sunrise service at 6:30 a.m.

■ The Methodist Union Churches of Topeka will have an Easter sunrise service, with breakfast following, at 6 a.m. at St. Mark’s African Methodist Episcopal Church, 801 N.W. Harrison.

■ Faith Lutheran Church, 1716 S.W. Gage, will have a sunrise service at 6:30 a.m.

■ Highland Park United Methodist Church, 2914 S.E. Michigan, will have a sunrise service at 6:30 a.m., followed by breakfast at 7:15 a.m. in the church’s Dawson Hall.

■ Hope Lutheran Church, 2636 S.E. Minnesota Ave., will have an Easter sunrise service at 6:30 a.m.

■ Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church, 610 S.E. Lime, will have an Easter sunrise service at 6 a.m. Sunday, April 5. The guest congregation will be Calvary Baptist Church.

■ Silver Lake United Methodist Church will have a sunrise service at 6:45 a.m. at Walnut Hill Cemetery, just north of N.W. 78th and Hoch Road, with breakfast to follow at 7:30 a.m. in the church’s fellowship hall at 204 Madore in Silver Lake. An Easter egg hunt will take place at 9 a.m. at Lion’s Park, N.W. 23rd and Chilson in Silver Lake.

■ The annual Ecumenical Sunrise Service will take place at 7 a.m. at Carole Chapel on the Washburn University campus, near S.W. 19th and MacVicar.

■ Harveyville United Methodist Church, 373 Wabaunsee in Harveyville, will have an Easter sunrise service at 7:30 a.m., followed by a brunch. Nick and Lucyah Della Valle, from Breath of Christ Ministry, will present the story of Bartimaues and the death and resurrection of Jesus during the 9:30 a.m. worship service.

■ Trinity Presbyterian Church, 4746 S.W. 21st, will have a “Sonrise” Easter service at 8:30 a.m., followed by breakfast at 9:30 a.m. and a celebration service at 10:30 a.m.

In time for Passover, a new Torah scroll

March 29, 2015

This year’s Passover observance in Lawrence will be extra special, as it marks the first holiday when the Jewish community in this Douglas County city will have its very own Torah scroll, considered the most sacred object in Judaism.

The Torah scroll was commissioned by the Chabad Center for Jewish Life at The University of Kansas. The organization is part of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, regarded as the largest Jewish outreach organization in the world.

The Torah scroll contains the five books of Moses — Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy — with each letter of each word hand-written to exacting standards by a specially trained scribe, who spent months working on the project.

When completed, a Torah scroll contains between 62 and 84 sheets of parchment-cured pages and exactly 304,805 letters.

Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel, director of the Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Lawrence, said “everything from the character of the scribe to the quality of the parchment and type of ink” are taken into account when commissioning a Torah scroll.

Great precision is required of the scribe who writes the Torah scroll, as the “slightest error” voids the entire 54-portion parchment.

A Torah scroll is a sacred object for Jewish congregations, in large part because of the time and care that go into its production.

“It means a lot,” Tiechtel said. “To some extent, a Jewish community isn’t complete without its own Torah scroll.”

The completed Torah scroll will be kept in the Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Lawrence, located at 1201 W. 19th.

The Chabad Center for Jewish Life was founded in 2006 in Lawrence by Rabbi Tiechtel and his wife, Nechama, who continue to oversee the organization, which operates through the support of students, their parents and alumni. The Lawrence center is one of about 3,500 Chabad chapters worldwide.

Rabbi Tiechtel said he was thrilled the Chabad Center for Jewish Life could help provide Lawrence with its first Torah scroll, adding it is a momentous event for the entire community.

Tiechtel said a scribe from Israel started the Torah scroll several months ago by making the first strokes on the parchment pages in Lawrence. The scribe then returned to Israel, where he continued working on the project. The scroll then was sent back to Lawrence, where the final letters were written on Sunday, Feb. 22, as part of a large celebration.

“The Torah is the lifeblood and the heart of every Jewish community,” Tiechtel said. “The honor of writing our very own Torah — in our community, for our community — is something which runs very, very deep. It has a very meaningful impact on every Jew throughout the entire region.”

Tiechtel said the Torah scroll “is a very appropriate addition to the KU community, as it represents the unbroken chain of Jewish tradition and survival. The ancient wisdom contained in this scroll is the essence of our identity as Jews, and possessing our own Torah scroll at an academic center of learning is cause for great pride and celebration.”

Tiechtel said he was thrilled to have the Torah scroll completed in time for this year’s Passover observance, which recounts the flight to freedom of the Israelites from their Egyptian captors some 3,300 years ago. The story is recounted in the book of Exodus.

Special services and meals, as well as other rituals, take place during Passover, which this year begins at sundown Friday, April 3, and concludes the evening of Friday, April 10.

The Chabad center, Tiechtel said, acts as a home-away-from-home for Jewish students at KU, providing educational, social, spiritual and holiday programming.

It will sponsor Community Passover Seders during the Passover holiday at 7:45 p.m. Friday, April 3, and 8 p.m. Saturday, April 4. Those who wish to attend can make reservations at www.JewishKU.com.

Making thanksgiving a way of life

November 30, 2014

I sincerely hope you and yours had a good Thanksgiving.

Our family, once again, certainly did.

Yes, with all the things that are going on in the world around us, I can truly say I am thankful we had a good Thanksgiving.

We had our traditional big-time get-together with family, extended family and friends — replete with a feast of turkey, ham and all the proverbial trimmings.

Too much food for anybody, truth be told.

Don’t think for a minute that I didn’t appreciate each and every morsel. Rather than shoveling food down the old pie-hole, I savored each bite.

Yes, it took a conscious decision to do that. But we have to be conscious to enjoy anything these days. So much of life anymore is measured on how much you can do and how fast you can do it.

Learning to appreciate the simple things of life can sometimes be an effort unto itself.

There are so many things at this time of year that demand our attention and take our mind off the spirit of the season, which when you come right down to it can be summed up in being aware of others and finding joy in giving, rather than receiving.

For me, the Thanksgiving season is an important precursor to the Christmas season. It is a time to give thanks intentionally, rather than as an afterthought.

Instead of getting caught up in the frenetic, almost dizzying pace of the holiday season, I am hoping to pull back a little bit this year.

Not a day goes by that I don’t say a thank you to God for the way he has blessed my family and looked after us.

It is with this sense of gratitude that I also am aware of others for whom this will not be a joyful holiday season: friends who have lost loved ones in the past weeks and months, and whose lives will never be the same.

I share in their sadness over those who have departed. Yes, I too wish they were still with us.

Yet even in the midst of that sadness, I am determined to do my utmost to honor their memories by celebrating the gift of another day and to live life to the fullest — with a healthy dose of thanksgiving along the way.

Grace Baptist a 'loving, caring' congregation

August 10, 2014

A couple of months ago, we asked readers to submit articles of around 450 words on what makes their congregation special and why they like it so much.

To date, we have run five reader-submitted articles highlighting churches from a variety of denominations in nearly all corners of the capital city.

Today, we will hear from Marilyn Kirkendall and Cathy Thompson, who have written about their congregation, Grace Baptist Church, located at 1110 N.E. Michigan in the city’s Oakland neighborhood.

Here is what they had to say:

“Grace Baptist Church is where ‘everybody knows your name.’ The pastor, Mark Deeter, has been the minister for 46 years. He is an amazing teacher and has a rather unusual way of looking at life and God’s role in it.

Every Sunday we meet for a ‘discussion’ which quite often takes an unexpected turn. Time and again laughter is heard coming from the congregation; maybe unorthodox at times, but no one falls asleep! He encourages questions and comments including the members in his discussion.

“The members of this small group of about 70 are loving, caring and supportive. Currently, the member that has been attending the longest is Sharon McPhail Haynes. Her parents, Alex and Thelma, were charter members of the church, so Sharon has been attending since birth. She works tirelessly for the church, singing in the choir, running a nursery for the children and lending a helping hand when needed. Sharon and her husband, Richard, serve Communion on the first Sunday of every month and occasionally will hold the service if Mark and Barb are out of town.

“Church member Marilyn Kirkendall has played the piano for Sunday services and church functions since she joined the church in 1998. Marilyn appreciates how Mark relates God’s word to the lives of the congregation. ‘His services are very easy to follow and help me to understand what I need to be doing in my life,’ she says.

“When asked about the first time she attended Grace Baptist, Marjorie Jacques said, ‘He made the church come alive for me for the first time.’ Mark and Barb held the funeral service for Marjorie’s brother Robert and at the request of his grandchildren they sang ‘How Much is that Doggie in the Window?’ — rather unorthodox and there were more than a few eyebrows raised, but the children loved it and it made them happy.

“The building that houses Grace Baptist was originally established as a church in 1893. For a short while it was the town hall of Oakland but was sold and established as Oakland Missionary Church in 1953. In 1963 is was named Oakland Missionary Baptist Church and on Nov. 3, 1965, it was renamed Grace Baptist Church. It is a lovely quaint building that echoes the years of prayers, tears and laughter it has witnessed. The congregation pitches in to help when repairs are needed — for example, recently many joined in to paint the church, inside and out!

“Outreach programs include nursing home sing-a-longs, donations to the local rescue mission and Bible study classes taught on Sunday morning before service. At Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, Grace Baptist participates in the Oakland community services, where the churches of Oakland come together to sing and pray and celebrate the holidays. You are always welcome to come and join in the prayer, song and quite often, laughter, every Sunday morning at 10 a.m.”

If you’d like to write an article about your congregation, there is still time. Let us know what makes your house of worship special and why you have chosen to make it your place to worship. Send your articles to phil.anderson@cjonline.com or to Religion Desk, The Capital-Journal, 616 S.E. Jefferson, Topeka, 66607.

Westminister a hidden gem in Topeka

July 6, 2014

Lots of churches in Topeka occupy prime real estate on some of the busiest corners in town.

Other churches are tucked away in quiet neighborhoods, where they are seen by far fewer people on a daily basis.

Yet despite what may seem on the surface to be an out-of-the-way location, such churches often find a strong and loyal membership.

One such congregation is Westminster Presbyterian Church, located in the city’s College Hill neighborhood.

In our ongoing series of articles about local congregations submitted by members, we hear today from Sue Fackler, who has the following to say about her church:

“Westminster Presbyterian is one of the best-kept secrets in Topeka. This beautiful church, which is on the National Historic Register, is located at 1275 S.W. Boswell, nestled in the College Hill neighborhood north of Washburn University.

“However, you’ll find the congregation that makes up Westminster out in the community at large, serving as workers and volunteers. They don’t just talk about their faith; they walk it.

“Westminster is celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2014. Yes, it’s a year of appreciating its rich heritage, but more importantly it’s challenging us to be ‘intentional’ as God leads us into the future. We have always been a mission church, believing we need to share our blessings with others.

“The congregation is diverse, accepting and caring. We highly value music and celebrate our phenomenal choir made up of all ages and diverse faiths. Of special note this year is the recognition of our esteemed organist, Mary Hurrel, who has been playing the organ at Westminster for 50 years! We have both an adult and children’s hand bell choir, as well.

“Harder to convey, however, is the spiritual depth of the people at Westminster. They share their faith by example, in how they live their lives. There are vigorous discussions about theology and the different life experiences that have led each of us to own our own faith. And there is not unanimous agreement about every word in the Bible. However, there is love and respect for one another as those views are expressed.

“Every member is important at Westminster, and the blend of ages enriches us all. We love our children and value their contribution. They collect their coins on Sunday morning and recently decided to take them to the Rescue Mission and Ronald McDonald House. They light the candles on Sunday morning. The graduates are recognized by the Westminster Knitters and given a scarf to send them into the world.

“Westminster understands its role as a contributor in God’s world. We partnered with the city and Topeka Unified School District 501 to help create Boswell Square Park. We support the College Hill Neighborhood, we sponsor Scout troops, we installed Carillon Chimes with the neighbors’ encouragement, we hold an Easter Egg Hunt, we have been a free summer lunch site for the last eight years, and we will be in the July 4th parade with our own float. Yes, this congregation knows how to have fun!

“Westminster ... life changing, faith growing, extended family, role models. When we moved from Denver to our first house across the street 35 years ago, we had no idea how much that beautiful stone church on the corner had been impacting this community for 125 years, or how much it would influence our personal lives. It’s a gift to this community!”

Thanks for those words, Sue.

We invite members of local congregations in the Topeka area to submit their comments about their house of worship.

Remember to keep your writings to around 450 to 500 words. Send your comments to phil.anderson@cjonline.com or mail them to Religion Desk, The Topeka Capital-Journal, 616 S.E. Jefferson, Topeka, 66607.

Lenten observances begin this week

March 3, 2014

Many Christians will begin their 40-day Lenten observance this week as Ash Wednesday services are held from morning to afternoon to night in both Catholic and Protestant churches.

Ash Wednesday services are typically well-attended and include the faithful going forward for the imposition of ashes — in the form of a cross — placed by a minister on their foreheads.

Lent is a 40-day period of increased fasting, prayer, penitence and almsgiving in anticipation of Easter, which this year will take place on Sunday, April 20.

The beginning of Great Lent for Orthodox Christians will occur on Monday, March 3. Orthodox Christians this year also will celebrate Easter on April 20.

In other religion news:

■ The men’s fellowship of Seaman Congregational Church, 2036 N.W. Taylor, will have a biscuits and gravy breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m. Saturday, March 1. A $5 donation is requested.

■ The Rev. Richard McAlear will speak on “There is a Hunger for God’s Mercy” at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 1, at St. Matthew Catholic Church, 2700 S.E. Virginia. McAlear also will speak from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday on “God Wants to Heal You” and will celebrate Mass at 1 p.m. Sunday, March 2, followed by a healing service.

■ Fans of guitar music may want to check out a concert this coming week when a nationally known group visits Topeka.

The Atlanta Guitar Trio will perform at 7 p.m. Friday, March 7, at Grace Episcopal Cathedral, 701 S.W. 8th.

The trio will perform music from Spain and Italy, as well as from Liverpool, England, courtesy of the Beatles.

The concert is part of the cathedral’s Great Spaces Music and Arts Series. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. Children 12 and younger will be admitted free.

■ The 126th St. David’s Concert will be held at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 2, at Emporia Presbyterian Church, 1702 W. 15th Ave. in Emporia. The annual concert honors the Welsh patron saint and is sponsored by the St. David’s Society of the State of Kansas. A reception will follow the concert.

■ The Topeka Women’s Connection will have its “Spectacular Spring Style Show Luncheon” at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, March 13, at the Capitol Plaza Hotel, 1717 S.W, Topeka Blvd. The program will include a style show by Christopher Banks, music and an inspirational message. The cost is $14.50, with reservations required by March 10 by calling (785) 233-1387 or (785) 266-1522.

■ Lane Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, 1200 S.W. Lane, will have a fish fry from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, March 7. A $9 donation is requested for the entree, two sides and a dessert. Deliveries are available for orders of three or more dinners. Call (785) 232-0015 for more information.

■ A “Power-Packed Gospel Fest” concert will be presented at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 8, at Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, 531 S.E. 33rd Terrace. The featured groups will be the Brooklyn All-Stars, of Brooklyn, N.Y.; the Sensational Wonders, of Kansas City, Kan.; Donna Franklin, of Kansas City, Mo.; Bo Miller, of Topeka; the St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church Male Chorus, of Topeka: and the Mount Olive Primitive Baptist Church Male Chorus, of Topeka. There is no admission charge, and a freewill offering will be received.

■ The third annual Mater Dei Irish Fest will take place in conjunction with St. Patrick’s Day festivities in downtown Topeka starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 15, at Mater Dei-Assumption Catholic Church, 204 S.W. 8th. The event will feature a 5-kilometer “fun run,” a 1.5-mile walk and a Leprechaun Leap for children younger than 10. An entry fee of $25 includes a T-shirt, goodie bag, raffle prizes and green pancakes after the race. The traditional Irish sing-along inside the church will begin at 10 a.m., followed by Mass at 10:30 a.m. For more information or to register for the fun run or walk, visit www.irishfestfunrun.com.

■ The 53rd annual Kansas Prayer Breakfast will be held at 6 a.m. on Friday, March 28, at the Ramada Hotel and Convention Center, 420 S.E. 6th. The speaker will be former major league pitcher Brian Holman, who played for the Montreal Expos and Seattle Mariners. Tickets are $18 per person or $180 for a table of 10. To order tickets or for more information, call (785) 267-0285 or (785) 234-6204. Additional information is available at www.kansasprayerbreakfast.net.

Spring's rejoicing, renewal can't get here soon enough

February 23, 2014

With the arrival of warmer weather this week, some of us were smitten with an early touch of spring fever.

Yes, we could still see plenty of cold, snowy and icy weather between now and the time the weather warms up for good.

But make no mistake about it: Spring is right around the corner, and it brings with it a certain flair of excitement.

Think about it for a second: We have the thrill of all the basketball tournaments that will start popping up in the next week or so.

First off, the high schools get together to determine who’s going to state. Then they settle matters on the hardwood at the various tournament locations from Topeka to Wichita to Hays, and points in between.

Then the colleges take center stage. Kansans will be glued to their TVs and radios this year as all three major colleges from the Sunflower State appear sure bets to make the Big Dance, with Wichita State, Kansas and Kansas State all gearing up for runs in March Madness.

Before the end of the month, the Major League Baseball season will begin, with Kansas City Royals fans hoping their team finally makes the playoffs this year.

Sports aren’t the only big draws for those of us who are anticipating the arrival of spring.

Special religious observances -- among the most important of the year -- will soon begin for both Christians and Jews. Like the arrival of spring itself, the holidays bring with them an opportunity for personal renewal and growth.

The Lenten season for Christians starts a bit later than usual this year, when Ash Wednesday is observed on March 5. For many, Lent is a chance for people to take a look inside, to examine themselves, and to seek to remove those things that may have crept into their lives and separated themselves from God.

The climax of Lent is the Easter celebration, which comes this year on April 20 for Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christians.

For Jews, the seven-day Passover observance will begin at sundown on Monday, April 14. The celebration is rich with symbolism, including the traditional Seder meal, commemorating the Israelites’ flight to freedom from their Egyptian captors some 3,000 years ago.

Many modern applications apply from Passover, including an awareness of those who are enslaved at this time and the need for freedom for all people.

As we did a year ago in the Religion section of The Topeka Capital-Journal, we will once again feature columns from area clergy members each Saturday during the upcoming holiday season.

The first installment will be next week and will continue through the Easter and Passover seasons. We thank the clergy for participating and hope you will enjoy their writings.

Many churches in walking distance

February 19, 2014

Did you ever stop to think about how many different churches there are in Topeka?

And why so many are so close together?

An unofficial count a few years ago pegged the number at more than 300 churches in the capital city. That number may be closer to 325.

That would seem like quite a few churches for a town of around 125,000 people. Particularly if statistics we came across a year ago accurately indicated less than 50 percent of Topekans worshipped in a church on a regular basis.

Many churches with long histories can be found in close proximity to each other and date back to a time when more people lived in the center of the city. Many folks walked to church in those days, maybe because there were fewer cars at the time.

A number of downtown-area churches with older buildings made a conscious choice in the past 25 years or so to stay put and counted on people to drive across town to come to Sunday services. Several have completed multimillion-dollar projects to refurbish and restore their beautiful buildings — some of which are around 100 years old — so they could maintain their presence in the center of the city.

Within about a six-block area of downtown Topeka, we have First United Methodist Church, 600 S.W. Topeka Blvd.; First Presbyterian Church, 817 S.W. Harrison; St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church, 701 S.W. Topeka Blvd.; St. Joseph's-Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 227 S.W. Van Buren; Mater Dei-Assumption Catholic Church, 204 S.W. 8th; Calvary Baptist Church, 433 S.W. Harrison; and Grace Episcopal Cathedral, 701 S.W. 8th.

Other smaller congregations have met in recent years in the same vicinity, including Bread of Life Foursquare Church, in a building that dates to the 1800s at 522 S.W. Polk; New Hope Baptist Church, 404 S.W. Polk; and Inward Faith Outreach Ministries, 625 S.W. Polk.

Some churches have long since left downtown for locations in other areas of Topeka, among them First Baptist Church, which had a distinctive old building at S.W. 9th and Jackson before moving to 3033 S.W. MacVicar; First Christian Church-Disciples of Christ, which lost its sanctuary to a fire in February 1961 and moved to 1880 S.W. Gage; and Bethel Covenant Church — now known as Brookwood Covenant Church — which vacated its old building at S.W. 6th and Harrison in 1976 for a move to 3601 S.W. 33rd.

Downtown isn't the only area to boast a cluster of churches. Some of the city's older neighborhoods also have their fair share of churches.About three churches are tucked away within a couple blocks of each other in an area in the city's Oakland neighborhood: Oakland Presbyterian Church, 2810 N.E. Thomas; Oakland Church of the Nazarene, 939 N.E. Oakland; and Oakland Christian Church-Disciples of Christ, 1001 N.E. Michigan.

Even as the Topeka population shifted to other geographic areas of the city, churches still seemed to find ways to locate near each other. One example is the vicinity of S.W. 17th and Gage, which boats Faith Lutheran Church, 1716 S.W. Gage; St. David's Episcopal Church, 3619 S.W. 17th; Most Pure Heart of Mary Catholic Church, 3601 S.W. 17th; and Lowman United Methodist Church, 4000 S.W. Drury Lane.

Another recent example of newer churches being next-door neighbors can be found near S.W. 37th and Wanamaker, where Wanamaker Woods Church of the Nazarene, 3501 S.W. Wanamaker, is located immediately north of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 3625 S.W. Wanamaker.

Some of the city's largest churches, such as Light of the World Christian Center, 3301 S.W. Gage, Fellowship Bible Church, 6800 S.W. 10th, and Northland Christian Church, 3102 N.W. Topeka Blvd., are in locations where there are few, if any, church buildings.

Yes, there is no shortage of churches in Topeka, and whether a person walks or drives, he can usually find one to his liking in a few visits.