A New Home in the Heartland: Church of Scientology Cuts Ribbon on Kansas City Landmark
Kansas City embraces a new Church in the Crossroads Arts District at downtown urban core.
Follow two meandering rivers through a patchwork of farmland reaching into the horizon, and you’ll come to a big city brimming with small-town feel, dead center of the continental United States.
Some residents will tell you, if you listen closely, you can still hear the bone-tired cowboys driving weary cow ponies through town. Others say the streets are forever stamped with the notes of Count Basie’s purring piano and Charlie Parker’s soaring sax, just a couple of the musical icons who cut their teeth in this cradle of American jazz once called the “Paris of the Plains.”
Fifty years on and KC still pulses with 21st-century artists who define this hub of Americana amid the nation’s agricultural nerve center. Nowhere is that movement more alive than in the Crossroads Arts District, where on Saturday, 2 November, it was the site of something extraordinary.
With a sunlit fall day painting the perfect backdrop, a crowd of more than a thousand gathered at 18th and Grand to welcome a remarkable new Church of Scientology opening her doors.
Mr. David Miscavige, the ecclesiastical leader of the Scientology religion, led the dedication ceremony. In his opening address, Mr. Miscavige underscored the day’s jovial spirit in honor of the new Church’s Midwest home: “Kansas City, where, as they say, folks speak the purest ‘American’ in all 50 states and the barbeque is as good as it gets anywhere in the gastronomic galaxy. This is also a town where the ‘work ethic’ is still what it was before that word ‘ethic’ lost its meaning. So, yes, Kansas City here we go!”
Channeling the energy of an exuberant audience and combining it with the hard-swinging rhythm that helped give rise to the improvisational jazz form of “Bebop,” the ceremony jived along right from the first chord. An opening performance of blues standard “Lester Leaps In” melded into a funk refrain of “Kansas City—Here I Come,” while festivities crescendoed into social leaders and dignitaries heralding the Church’s historic new home.
The magnificently restored facility, built in 1926, is a city landmark and registered heritage site of national significance. American Beaux Arts design to the core, its grand symmetrical exterior is typical of cornerstone early 19th-century buildings that still define American cities today. The centerpiece is without question the soaring two-story ground floor lobby, adorned with five unique types of marble, a beamed ceiling hand painted in Aztec-inspired design and chandeliers of massive proportions forged in brass and wrought iron—it’s a spectacular welcome to a Church entirely dedicated to uplifting its community.
And, while the Midwest is renowned for traditional values, it also carries a colorful history of gangsters, gambling, whiskey running and corruption. Of course, some of that color may be part Hollywood folklore, but Kansas City’s violent crime rates are still ranked among the top ten cities in the country. Counteracting those statistics has been a citywide drive to take action, and flanking that drive are human rights and social betterment campaigns sponsored by the Church and already at work in creating a better and safer Kansas City. By way of example, programs such as the Truth About Drugs are embraced by local law enforcement for delivery to at-risk youth, lessons in The Way to Happiness for character building are taught to local Christian congregations and Scientology Volunteer Ministers have come to the aid of victims of natural disaster. No matter the circumstance or the need, the Church’s answer is always the same: “Our help is yours.”
Dignitaries honoring those commitments and in turn extending their congratulations were Scott Wagner, Mayor Pro Tem of Kansas City from 2015 to July 2019; Jeff Owens, Vice President of the Crossroads Arts District; Cleo McLaughlin, Advisor to the National Association of Addiction Counselors; and Pastor Melvin Merritt, Founder of Kansas City’s Ground Level Ministries.
Scott Wagner, Kansas City Mayor Pro Tem (2015-2019), warmly welcomed the new Church and its members: “In the end, it’s all about partnerships. No single agency can do everything. What ties those of us who live and work together is we know Kansas City is great and has the potential to become even greater. Planting your new Church here says to others: ‘Hey, there’s something going on in Kansas City—maybe we should be a part of that too.’ Thank you for investing in our future, and thank you for pouring your heart into the future of this American heartland. Welcome to the neighborhood.”
Jeff Owens, Vice President of the Crossroads Arts District, honored the Church’s work to restore their new home in the heart of it all: “That’s right, your home stands at the very center of the Crossroads Arts District. But you didn’t take that distinction for granted—you took action. When you came along and restored this treasured landmark, you declared: ‘There’s no boundary line to art—we are going to make a masterpiece right here on this lot.’ Well, I was simply amazed when I walked inside your grand entrance and saw just what you had done. It’s a beautiful preservation of Kansas City Americana. Which is to say, your home reflects the personality of our home as a community.”
Cleo McLaughlin, Advisor to the National Association of Addiction Counselors, reflected on discovering the drug rehabilitation technology of Narconon: “I attended a Graduation and heard the stories of desperation from those who had fought through and won against drugs. It was emotional, it was unforgettable. These precious beings, each one of them, had succumbed to something that was not giving life, but taking it. Yet now, with Narconon, they had returned to living. I became a lifelong believer. And it’s been a joy to work with you, resurrecting human lives from Arkansas to Oklahoma and from right here in Missouri.”
Pastor Melvin Merritt, Founder of Kansas City’s Ground Level Ministries, spoke to the possibilities now open to every resident of his city: “The talk today is too much about different religions and different churches and how different and separate we all are. If we just came together, look at how much power that would create. And there begins my bond with the Church of Scientology. We’ve already been working side by side with your Volunteer Ministers at our community collaboration events.… Yes, I am excited. The world needs to realize we’re all Volunteer Ministers. And here in Kansas City, common to the cause, together we’re gonna be Doing Something About It!”
Upon entering the new Church of Scientology Kansas City, visitors are welcomed by a Public Information Center presenting an introduction to Dianetics and Scientology. Its displays, containing more than 500 films in 17 languages, share the beliefs and practices of the Scientology religion and the life and legacy of Founder L. Ron Hubbard.
The Information Center further presents the many humanitarian initiatives that Scientology supports, including their worldwide human rights education campaigns; far-reaching drug education, prevention and rehabilitation program; global network of literacy and learning centers; and the Scientology Volunteer Ministers corps, which has become one of the largest independent relief forces.
Kansas City’s Chapel provides for all Scientology congregational gatherings, including Sunday Services, Weddings and Naming Ceremonies. Furthermore, the Chapel is open to the entire community and any denomination for a wide range of events. From banquets and seminars to workshops and lectures, it’s all in the name of elevating KC to greater heights.
The Café offers a place to mingle, whether for visitors touring the Church, those attending its many scheduled events or parishioners during breaks in their Scientology services.
The new Church allows for the delivery of all introductory seminars and courses. Held in the afternoon, evening and on weekends, they impart an overview of fundamental principles of Dianetics and Scientology and their application for living. Among the most popular are an array of Life Improvement Courses, each designed to help better a specific facet of one’s life.
In addition to Introductory Services, the Church features 20 specially appointed rooms for providing Scientology auditing (one-on-one spiritual counseling). Those who want to learn the technology of auditing will now be able to train in multiple course rooms, taking up an entire floor of this historic building. Upon graduating, these new auditors (spiritual counselors) can help others attain spiritual freedom. The new facility welcomes both Scientologists and those interested in finding out more about the Church of Scientology.
This opening of the new Kansas City Church of Scientology drives ever forward a period of expansion for the religion, with over 70 new Churches of Scientology in global cities—from Los Angeles to London, Bogotá to Berlin and Tel Aviv to Tokyo.
More Church openings are planned in the next 12 months for cities across North America, Australia, Europe and the United Kingdom.