Story and Photos By LAUREN VINCENT
Half a century after Mr. S.S. Rogers settled in Southwest Kansas in 1872, securing the town name because of his “liberal” distribution of free water to passing travelers, a school was built in the 600 block between Lincoln and Grant Avenues.
Another 88 years and two additions later, a portion of that building is still being used by a satellite campus of Church For All Nations (CFAN), based out of Colorado Springs, Colo.
“We have a total of four campuses, the main one being in Colorado Springs,” said campus pastor Darren Metcalf, “Then we have one here, then there’s one in Littleton, and also one in southwest Colorado Springs.”
CFAN has kept the remodeled portion of the old high school structurally similar to how it was when being used as a school. Pastor Darren explained why the men’s and women’s restrooms are so far apart, on opposite sides of the sanctuary.
“I think they wanted to keep the boys away from the girls,” he said. “Just kind of an interesting thing back in the ’50s. I think that’s when this section of the building was built, the ’50s. And 1922 on the first half, and then the ’40s for the middle half.”
The building has transferred hands several times since the high school moved to the current campus on West Second street in 1982.
“It was purchased by the previous pastor and his wife when it was Christian Life Center and they were actually in the church right across the street, that’s the Assembly of God church,” Metcalf said. “They were just praying and believing for the school across the street and then they had an opportunity to buy it.
“Some investors bought this thing back after the school closed,” he continued. “It closed in the ’80s and sat for a number of years before the investors bought it to make apartments out of it, or something like that. They ran into some kind of issue, I don’t know what that was, and then it came up for sale at a really good price. So that’s when pastor Ken and Patty bought it and the congregation began to remodel this section of it.”
The church leadership realizes the community of Liberal devoted many years creating memories in the building and are eager to allow, even foster, reminiscence.
“We were recently approached by the class of 1980,” Metcalf related. “They came by the other day just asking, ‘Hey would it be OK if we came and had a meal over here or something like that?’ and we said, ‘Absolutely, we’d love for you to!’ Then I said, ‘You can have the people come walk through, take a look and see where their old locker was,’ you know.”
Beyond the current renovations CFAN leadership has big dreams for a total building restoration.
“I think a daycare would be really nice in this quiet location,” he said. “We were thinking we would like to see some sort of retail, maybe a Starbucks and a Chipotle, some small little shops that would kind of fit in the neighborhood. We’d like to put a Bible school in there on the second floor with the large open classroom feel. And have a really nice set of apartments up on the top level.
“The gym we would turn into the main sanctuary or if we left the main sanctuary on this part, open that up to the community,” he said. “Have the community be able to come in and use that as a youth center or something like that, to come in and just have fun. Or if that were in conjunction with the housing that we put in, keep it as a gym or maybe a weight room.
“We went and talked to the city and it will be a little difficult because we have a residential area separating us from the other businesses, that little zone to our east,” he said. “The daycare would be no problem and housing would be no problem.”
Accessibility was seldom a consideration in the early 20th century, when the building was constructed, so efforts will be expended to increase convenience.
“We would put some elevator systems in and all the things that would make it just really accessible to folks,” Metcalf said.
Pastor Darren also mentioned the church’s desire to create a place for pastors to come in and be refreshed. Developing a haven for pastors to take a break and enjoy the slower pace of life that Liberal affords is on the list of priorities.
“That’s our vision,” he said.
As for seeing this vision become a concrete reality, a major step will be inciting volunteers to scrub, scrape and scour the insides of the neglected building. It will cost an estimated $1 million to complete this first step of fleshing the building out in preparation for restoration.
“The cleanup is the first part, and maybe getting the community involved in it, to get excited about it,” Metcalf said. “The congregation here is really excited about it, and the other campuses in Colorado are excited to help. A lot of people have said, ‘when you’re ready let us know and we’ll drive over to help out for the weekend,’ or something like that.”
The cleanup process is projected to begin when the weather stabilizes.
“We would really like to start once the weather gets really warm towards the end of May,” he guessed, “Maybe first of June; wet down the dust and pull things out. Boilers and anything recyclable can be taken to be recycled and anything the community might be interested in buying we can set out for purchase.”
In considering the purpose he and his wife Joanne feel in ministering in Liberal, Pastor Darren seemed focused on meeting the spiritual needs of individuals through relationships.
“People are very friendly here and we just love it,” he said. “In all the campuses we have a common goal of letting people experience Christ in everything that they do. The passion that my wife and I have, and our senior pastor in Colorado Springs, Pastor Mark, is just for the people of Liberal to be able to connect to the love of God through other people; it’s to be able to come in and help people out.”
This profound desire to give freely of one’s resources in all possible ways clearly fits with the heart of Liberal, the citizens who give liberally of themselves, and Mr. S.S. Rogers who gave his water freely to strangers when others would have charged by the glass.
Anyone in the community wishing to help with the restoration on any level, be it a financial donation or volunteered labor, can stop by the church office or call 624-4416 and leave their name along with the level of interest.