Throughout our history, the people of Second have never been afraid to take on the issues of the day. Second’s response to the AIDS crisis was no different. In the late 1980s, our nation and city were in the full throes of the AIDS epidemic. At the beginning of this crisis, few churches or faith communities were stepping up to respond to this public health crisis. However, in 1989, a group from Second began to think about how Second could be a part of the solution.
That year, Second’s Hage Endowment Committee sponsored an “AIDS in the Church” weekend seminar. Two guest speakers from Houston, Ron Sunderland and Earl Shelp, shared their experiences in helping organize interfaith AIDS care teams. Shortly after, a group from Second officially created Second’s AIDS Ministry. The group spent a great deal of time educating itself, and ended up welcoming members from other churches, including Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ.
From their research and conversations, the AIDS Ministry team determined it would be best to work with secular agencies. However, they would continue to do so under the banner of Second Church so the community would know that at least some parts of the church were responding to the AIDS crisis with something beyond words of condemnation for young gay men, who made up the bulk of the first people afflicted.
Eventually, ministry members helped create the TLC AIDS unit at South Park Care Center, a nursing home a few miles southeast of Second. That unit eventually was dissolved, but ministry members then were part of the group that founded Hope Care Center at 83rd and Main in Kansas City.
Hope Care Center received crucial seed money from Second, and opened in 1996 as a 24-hour skilled nursing facility for persons with HIV/AIDS. In addition to the Hope Care Center, Second members were also involved with the Good Samaritan Project and Save, Inc. Ministry members have also helped educate other congregations, some of which later started their own AIDS ministries.
A Legacy of Compassion
Thanks to great advancements in medicine, HIV/AIDS is no longer the acutely fatal disease it once was. With antiretroviral treatment and proper care, those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS are often able to treat it as a chronic condition. Thankfully, our society is much better informed and educated about the disease now than we were in the 1980s.
With these advancements, our congregation recognized that the need for our AIDS Ministry team had greatly dissipated. As a result, we were able to officially disband our AIDS Ministry team, and turn our attention to other pressing issues in our community such as homelessness, hunger, poverty, and education. However, we have continued to support Hope Care Center through their patient services program, and have also provided them with donations through our monthly Mission Barrel. Through this partnership, we are able to continue this important part of our legacy.