November - December 2017

Written by Stan Ingersol
From his column Past to Present

Until the Global Ministry Center moved to Lenexa, Kans., in 2008, it had always been located in Kansas City, Mo. At first, it was near Troost Avenue on Nazarene Publishing House property. But for over a half-century, beginning in the mid-1950s, the “Nazarene Headquarters” was identified by an address memorized by countless pastors and church treasurers: “6401 The Paseo.”

One of many fountains along The Paseo in Kansas
City. This is the intersection with Meyer Boulevard
and is just up the street from Nazarene Theological
Seminary and the former location for Nazarene
Headquarters.

“Paseo” means, simply, “avenue” in Spanish. “The Paseo” is “The Avenue.”

The name is derived from Mexico City’s Paseo de la Reforma, modeled in turn after Europe’s great boulevards. Paseo de la Reforma runs from Chapultepec Castle to Mexico’s National Palace. Kansas City’s Paseo is about ten miles long. Beginning at cliffs overlooking the Missouri River, it runs south to 85th Street.

George Kessler, one of America’s leading urban architects, designed The Paseo and began its construction. Kessler’s family immigrated to America from Germany when he was three. He returned to Germany for his education, returning to the U.S. at age 20.

Kessler worked for a time for Frederick Law Olmstead, who created New York City’s Central Park, then moved to Kansas City in 1882. Ten years later, a new Kansas City Parks Board was appointed. It was headed by August Meyer, a wealthy businessman and multi-millionaire. Kessler was hired to develop an extensive park and boulevard system for the city. Meyer and Kessler co-authored a report published in 1893 that changed Kansas City’s landscape forever. The Paseo was part of Kessler’s larger plan for the city, laid out in detail in the report.

“Paseo” means, simply, “avenue” in Spanish. “The Paseo” is “The Avenue.”

Kessler did something unusual along The Paseo: he planted two rows of trees side-by-side, using the boulevard as a tree nursery. When young trees were needed elsewhere in the city, trees in the second row were dug up and relocated.

Soon after the Nazarene headquarters moved to The Paseo, it acquired parts of the Lynn Estate following the death of Kansas City businessman James J. Lynn in 1955. The estate was once 120 acres. His widow gradually sold off pieces of it, and in 1966 portions were acquired by Research Hospital and the Church of the Nazarene.

J. J. Lynn was born in Louisiana in 1892 into a family of cotton farmers. After grade school, he worked for the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company. He moved in 1909 to Kansas City to be an accountant for the railroad, and in 1910 transferred to Bell Telephone.

The longtime Nazarene Headquarters Building
at 6401 The Paseo Boulevard

By 1924, he was recognized as one of Kansas City’s 100 leading businessmen. His business acumen is evident today in the Lynn Insurance Group and Universal Underwriters Insurance, among other companies. His reputation would be confined to the annals of American business history except for one thing: he joined the Self Realization Church, one of the two dominant branches of Hinduism in America (the other is Vedanta), and rose to become its leader upon the death of Swami Paramahansa Yogananda, its founder.

A native of India, Yogananda founded the Self Realization Church in the early 20th century after a successful lecture tour through America’s cities. The movement’s headquarters and spiritual center was eventually located in Los Angeles.

In January 1932, Yogananda spoke at Kansas City’s Athenaeum Auditorium. Lynn attended the lectures and immediately began practicing meditation under the yogi’s tutelage. He also financed the sect’s magazine, East-West. Yogananda died in 1952. Lynn, now known within the sect as Rajarsi Janakananda, succeeded him as the sect’s primary teacher and leader until his own death three years later.

It seems unlikely that Mrs. Lynn shared her husband’s religious views. The beneficiaries of her will do not include the Self Realization Church, though other religious organizations were. These include the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (who built the striking brick convent on the hill on The Paseo’s west side, directly across from the old Nazarene Headquarters), Youth for Christ Kansas City, and the Church of the Nazarene.

When the GMC moved to Lenexa in 2008, the new building included a beverage and fellowship center. Several names were proposed for this area, but the one that employees embraced was “The Paseo.”

Stan Ingersol is manager of archives for the Church of the Nazarene.

Subscribe to eNews!