Because of its location, Missouri can claim many firsts. Last month Old McKendree Chapel, one of many important historic Methodist churches, celebrated the 200th anniversary of its founding. The surviving building in Jackson was erected in 1819 and is still used for special services. Old McKendree is known as the site of the first Methodist service west of the Mississippi.
Other churches have their own claims. Old St. Ferdinand Shrine in the St. Louis suburb of Florissant, Mo., was founded as a Roman Catholic parish in 1789, and the building constructed in 1821 is considered to be the "oldest standing church west of the Mississippi." Oldest Catholic church perhaps?
Another Methodist church, in Farmington, Mo., claims to be the first Protestant church west of the Mississippi. A Methodist preacher held services in 1804, and the church started its first regular Sunday school in 1805.
And then there is Bethel Baptist Church, a log structure built in 1806 in Jackson, considered the first Baptist house of worship west of the Mississippi. Its restoration was celebrated in 2007.
All of these historic churches are a reminder of the deep roots of religion in our state -- roots that have thrived and continue to serve our communities in so many important ways.