The best-kept secret in Missouri is on a small residential block just southwest of the Blue Springs, Mo., business district. There, 13 houses that make up the United Church of Christ’s Blue Springs Terrace dot the tree-lined street where retired UCC and Disciples pastors and full-time church office staff live.
Blue Springs Terrace was the brainchild of the Rev. John Sauer, at the time pastor of St. Peter’s UCC in Kansas City. Concerned that retired pastors needed a way to survive retirement on their meager savings, he built the first house in 1906. Most of the single-story craftsman-style houses date from 1906 to 1938.
After that first home, “additional contributions allowed for the purchase of 10 acres, part of which was an orchard and farmland, in 1906,” says Terrace Board President Mary Ann Pierson.
“As far as any records we have … a total of approximately 203 residents [have lived] here over the last 111 years,” says resident and Terrace Representative Deloda Hempenius. Deloda and her late husband, the Rev. Richard Hempenius, moved to The Terrace in 1994. “We had lived in parsonages during our ministry,” she says, and “we didn’t have the money to buy a house.”
After attending a retirement seminar, the couple visited The Terrace. Deloda and Richard put their names on the waiting list, and later moved in.
All of the homes “have big back yards, room for a garden if the resident wants it, and nice front yards,” Deloda adds. “It is like a small community with neighbors that have common interest. The fellowship is wonderful.”
Room for Growth
Residents of The Terrace pay a monthly maintenance fee that includes lawn care, snow removal and capital improvements. Valued volunteers from local churches and some of the residents gather every Tuesday to take care of building and grounds needs.
As the first retirement community of any Protestant denomination in the United States, Blue Springs Terrace earned recognition on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. Although being on the National Register comes with strict guidelines and can make renovations more costly, The Terrace still has been able to expand.
“In 1996, a handicapped accessible duplex was built,” Mary Ann Pierson says. “In 2003, the Agape House was built to serve as a multipurpose facility.”
Agape House also is the organizing space for the Tuesday work days. “We have a group of volunteers from some of our surrounding UCC churches who come at 8:30 a.m. for coffee and a donut or roll, and fellowship for about half an hour,” Deloda says. “Then we start our work day, and end it anywhere from 2 to 4:30 p.m., depending on what work needs to be done that day.”
St. Luke’s UCC in Independence, Mo., is one such group. In March, its youth and young adult class joined pastor the Rev. Paul Emily in an afternoon of spring cleaning at The Terrace. According to the church’s website, a lot of work was done and, as one of the kids said, “It makes you feel good to help people.”
Agape House also is the site for seasonal parties and other gatherings, and is used by residents when family or friends visit and need a place to sleep or share a meal.
Blue Springs Terrace, like many CHHSM-member ministries, relies on fund raisers and donations to meet its budgetary needs. These, plus the residents’ maintenance fees, help maintain the street.
“Each spring, we have a breakfast buffet as a fund raiser, put on by the board of directors; and in the fall, we have a chili soup dinner, with salads and homemade cakes and pies,” says Deloda. “These are both freewill offerings … [and] are both well attended.”
The board also is raising funds for capital improvements, including roofs, updated wiring, energy-efficient windows, paved driveways, gutters, and upgrades to Agape House, among other projects. The capital campaign will help ensure the long-term stewardship, sustainability, and safety of the community, while retaining its Historic Register designation.
Home is Where the Heart is
Over the years, Deloda says, “there have been major changes. There have been some sad times, but the good times outweigh those.”
One of the biggest changes is in demographics. “When we came here, there were mostly couples,” she adds, “and now we have more second-career women moving in.”
The neighborhood feel is one of the features that most appeals to Deloda. “There are no fences to divide the houses, but one can be as private as they like,” she says. “Especially in the summer, there is a lot of front yard visiting and sitting on each other’s porches.”
“The Terrace is … the longest I have ever lived anywhere in my 84 years of life,” she adds. “This community is a place I truly call home.”
Blue Springs Terrace welcomes work groups in the summer and fall. Read more about its volunteer opportunities.