Jump to Navigation

Kansas Bahai Community at 100

The religious landscape of Kansas changed in 1897 when the Bahá’í (Bahai) Community of Enterprise came into being. Many religious communities have been part of Kansas history as short-lived phenomenon. The Bahá’í community has not been among those. The Kansas Bahá’í community, the second west of Egypt, has grown in its first one hundred years in ways many observers may not have expected.

From 1897 into the first years of the 20th century Bahá’ís could be found in Kansas; in Enterprise, Kansas City (1898), Wichita (1902) and Topeka (1906). The Bahá’í community of Topeka has been continuous, though Bahá’í communities in the other cities also became permanent. In 1997, at one hundred years, Bahá’í communities could be found all across Kansas in one hundred localities, some large, some small.  These ranged from metropolitan areas to smaller towns such as Lenora and Ulysses.

Kansas Bahá’ís have made other contributions to the wider Bahá’í community and society as a whole. They have contributed to the spiritual and moral education of children and youth, opened their homes for devotional gatherings that are all-inclusive and helped empower the downtrodden and oppressed. Many have gone from Kansas for shorter or longer lengths of time to assist Bahá’í communities in other states and other countries. Several have been elected to serve on local and national governing councils of those Bahá’í communities. Others have assisted with other projects, such as a doctor and his wife, a nurse, who have spent summers helping Hospital Bayan in the midst of the jungles of Guatemala. Many are professional educators. Others, in service to their communities, have risen to being Mayor and Chief of Police.  In many cases it is difficult to know the complete picture of service because pride and boasting of one’s accomplishments are not traits cultivated in Bahá’í life.

One Kansas Bahá’í, Dr. David Ruhe, a pioneer in medical education, was elected to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States. He, as well as Hugh Chance a national level attorney, born in Kansas, were eventually elected to the supreme governing council of the entire Bahá’í world, the Universal House of Justice which office is located in Haifa, Israel, both serving several five year terms.

Kansas Bahá’ís have also made artistic and scholarly contributions. One has paintings which can be found in major museums, historical and other written work of another has been published around the world and can be found in major libraries on several continents, another has edited international publications and a musician has played trumpet with major musicians such as Dizzy Gillespe.

Wherever they live, Bahá’ís in Kansas practice and work to promote equality of races and build bridges between people. Bahá’ís are often involved in inter-faith activities to promote knowledge and understanding between followers of different religions. 

For more than a century now, members of the Bahá’í Faith in Kansas have contributed to advancing society in the Sunflower State.

Entry: Kansas Bahai Community at 100

Author: Duane L. Herrmann

Author information: Herrmann has degrees in education and history from Fort Hays State University. He has published widely on the history of the Bahai faith with publications now in a dozen countries in four languages. His history book By Thy Strengthening Grace received the Ferguson, Kansas, History Book Award in 2007. He has actively studied the Bahai faith since 1969.

Date Created: September 2015

Date Modified: December 2017

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.