From the establishment of Nebraska’s first church group at Decatur in 1871, the state grew to 17 congregations with 350 members–plus additional isolated members–in Antelope, Boone, and McPherson counties and villages of Seward, Spring View, and Stromsburg by the time the Nebraska Conference was organized during the Seward camp meeting on September 25, 1878.
Piedmont Park Seventh-day Adventist Church traces its beginnings to a congregation of 40, established in 1886 following an evangelistic meeting conducted by A. J. Cudney. Then-president of the Nebraska Conference, Elder Cudney opened the Lincoln City Mission on a lot between D and E streets on 15th–just five blocks south of the Nebraska Capital building. The mission at first was a center for training in theology, literature evangelism, and health and medical missionary work. Students studied in the mornings and fanned out into the community during the afternoons.
Once Union College opened its doors in 1891, the educational focus changed a bit. In the early 1900s when the congregation numbered 100, they sold the mission house and built a sanctuary adjacent to the mission building.
The 15th Street, or Lincoln City, Church thrived during the first half of the 20th century. Among the early pastors were stalwarts like Stephen B. Olney, Carl Sundin, Guy Williamson, Harold R. Turner, and Wilbur Chapman. A multi-grade church school in a basement Sabbath school room drew teachers like LaVeta Payne who later headed major teacher training programs for the denomination. The converted classroom also served as an entertainment center until the congregation outgrew that location and began to rent the YMCA in downtown Lincoln for their monthly “socials to save.”
Always a center for evangelistic emphasis and a training school for Union College theology students, especially during World War II, the group drew some Union College professors who served either as pastors or spoke on regular Sabbaths. Among them were Winston H. Beaven and Leslie Hardinge.
Membership also grew when servicemen stationed at the Lincoln Air Force Base, now the Lincoln Municipal Airport, made the City Church their church home. Don and Dorthy Prowant were married there before Don took Dorthy with him until he served overseas. Servicemen and students from Union College attended by the dozens and joined the choir, which sang for services weekly and was the core of a musical group that rode on a flat-bed truck through the streets of Lincoln as solicitors made door-to-door contacts for a mission outreach known as “Ingathering.”
By the late 1950s, when the historical church could no longer support the congregation, and parking became a major problem, they purchased the Piedmont property with its prominent frontage, their new witnessing center. Opening worship services were held in 1961 for the sanctuary and the educational wing was added in 1965.
Thank you to Elder Ray Daniel for helping collect this information.
Read the article printed in the Central Union Reaper, 1965 - Vol. 34 - No. 47