|Gathered on the Steps of Central Christian Church - Lexington, Ky.|
|Central Christian Church, ca. 1898. Source: NRHP.|
According to the National Register Application, Central is Lexington's only major remaining Richardsonian Romanesque, describing the old courthouse as being stylistically provincial.
A Growing Church. Around 1911, the church began to find their space inadequate and enlargement was discussed. An education wing was formally dedicated in November 1915.
In 1933, a fire in the church caused significant damage to the sanctuary. The decision was made to reconfigure it to its present layout (save the chancel which was later enlarged); the new sanctuary was dedicated in September 1934. In the time between the fire and the dedication, the church found refuge for its weekly services at the Kentucky Theatre.
|Central Christian Church, ca. 1952. Source; NRHP.|
In 1954, "My Father's Garden" was dedicated. It had been designed by Central's Mrs. Wilson Case Lawwill with Louis Hillenmeyer serving as consulting landscape architect.
A final addition occurred in the early 2000s after Central purchased the old municipal building at the eastern end of Barr Street. Though once a beautiful structure, a flat façade added in the 1960s or 70s eliminated all beauty. The decision was made to raze the building and in its place, a new fellowship, youth and children center, and additional parking were made available for the growing church. It was a wise decision (particularly when compared to the alternative of abandoning the downtown site), and the church has since grown.
|Sanctuary of Central Christian Church - Lexington, Ky.|
Interesting Tales. A review of the old newspaper archives is always revealing, and a few stories related to Central Christian Church are of note. In 1902, "Patrolman James Dodd, while searching for a burglar, fell into the baptistry at Central Christian Church." In 1905, "Central ... votes to try individual communion cups for 30 days." (They still use them.) In 1918, "Fifty stars on flag unveiled at Central Christian Church yesterday." (I don't understand this as we didn't get a fiftieth (or forty-ninth) state until 1959. Ideas, anyone?) In March 1955, noted Disciple Ronald Reagan, in town as a movie star and program supervisor for General Electric Theater, delivered a "layman's witness" to the congregation.
Evolution of Church Polity and Doctrine. Theologically, the church and its prior inceptions represent the oldest Disciples of Christ church in the denomination (though other churches are older, they began under other denominational brands before taking the Disciples identity). The church can be linked through history to a founding in 1816.
In its early years, the church was a hotbed for the community's temperance movement. The annual meetings of the Kentucky Women's Christian Temperance Union met almost annually at Central. On the opposite corner from the church, Tom Lyons had to go to court against the church in order to open his saloon, though he ultimately succeeded in 1897. A 1911 sermon series on "Vital Church Discipline" including a message entitled "Excommunicate the unworthy" which "created a profound impression and caused much favorable comment." Though taking harsh posititions in the early years, both Central (and Disciples, generally) ultimately have softened their tone with regard to alcohol (recognizing that, after all, Jesus' first miracle was turning water into wine) and other matters. In 2011, Central was recognized as an Open & Affirming congregation, showing a grand shift in social thought from its former days as a hotbed of WCTU activity.
A deTour to Remember. Though I've attended services several times at Central, I knew little of its history until our Blue Grass Trust deTour of the venue in early April 2013. The senior minister since 1995, Dr. Michael Mooty, led an adventurous crew through the church's old boiler room with the exposed foundation from the old Masonic temple. It was joked that a dusty old chair in the boiler room was the a strict form of discipline for those talking during Sunday school or during services; it would seem this to be less strict, however, than that proposed in the 1911 sermon on "Excommunication: Withdrawal from the Church of Unworthy Members" preached by Rev. I. J. Spencer.
Another long ladder, fixed at about 30-45°, took the most adventurous from the landing to the platforms that span above the sanctuary. Though the spaces were tight, the sense of construction and the sentiment of history was strong in this surprising elements to the deTour.
|Shimmying to the area atop the sanctuary|
More photographs of Central Christian Church can be found on flickr.
Sources: Central Christian Church (DoC); Local.LexPubLib.org; NRHP; Ward Russell's Church Life in the Bluegrass.
The Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation hosts a monthly deTour for young professionals (and the young-at-heart). On May 1, the group will meet at the Michler Florist on East Maxwell Street before visiting the Pope Villa. Join us on the first Wednesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. Learn more details about this exciting group on Facebook! You can also see Kaintuckeean write-ups on previous deTours by clicking here.