By Gary Flanagan
The drive from Jefferson City, Missouri to Little Rock, Arkansas was quite pleasant. Most of the 365 miles were on country backroads with just a few stretches on Interstate 40 and 44. From Springfield, Missouri, I travelled through the tourist town of Branson and down through the scenic Ozark mountains.I arrived in Little Rock just after dusk and found the glowing Arkansas State Capitol with few cars or people around at night.
This Capitol originated from the drawings of St. Louis architect George Mann, who had submitted the winning design of the Montana State Capitol. The drawings were put on display in the old Arkansas Capitol to generate interest in a new building. The idea worked and construction started in 1899. I circled this Neoclassical Capitol multiple times, but did not notice any close by church structures.I pulled into a parking garage and found a security guard, who suggested I try looking to the east side of the city.
About a mile away from the Capitol, I did manage to find First Baptist Missionary Church, fmbclr.com , a Gothic Revival style church at the corner of 7th and S. Gaines Streets. Built in 1882 this church has had some memorable speakers. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the 118th anniversary sermon in 1963 and Governor William Jefferson Clinton gave the 145th anniversary address in 1990. The community actually dates back to 1845 when a slave, Rev. Wilson Brown, was bold enough to ask his master for a place for the slaves to worship.
With it being late at night, I left Little Rock thinking that there must be some other, closer churches to the Capitol. In the two and a half years since my church and state tour in 2013, I have discovered two additional worship centers closer to the Arkansas State Capitol.
Central Church of Christ arcentralchurch.org was started in the 1920’s and moved to its present location in the 800 block of 6th street in 2003.
The Ecumenical Buddhist Society of Little Rock ebslr.org is now located on W. 3rd street only two blocks north of the Capitol, having moved from it’s Second street location in 2013. This organization started in the early 1980’s as a group of mixed traditions that would meet for 30 minutes of silent meditation at the Unitarian/Universalist church. It now has practice traditions that include Tibetan Vajrayana, Zen, Theravada, and the practice of Journey into Silence.
With all that silent practice, it is little wonder as to how I missed finding these locations during my visit. When you have the opportunity to visit Little Rock, Arkansas at night. Look for the diverse churches silently hidden in the glow of the Capitol dome.