A strategy for congregational research

My Nashville research across the last ten years has evolved from an interest in Central Church (where I was then Associate Minister) to a much, much larger scope including each congregation in the county, every para-church ministry based in Nashville, and how the larger issues within Stone-Campbell history interact with local history in one city resulting in the ministry conducted on ground, in the trenches, in the congregations.  With that comes the innumerable evangelists, ministers and pastors who held forth weekly from pulpits across the city. Ambitious? Yes.  Perhaps too ambitious.  That may be a fair criticism, but the field is fertile and the more I survey the landscape and read the sources and uncover additional data, the more I’m convinced to stay the course.

In the last four years especially I have focused my efforts to obtain information about the smaller congregations, closed congregations, particularly congrgations which have closed in the last 40 to 50 years.  My rationale for this focus is that some history here is in some cases, potentially recoverable.  There are larger affluent congregations which have appearances of vitality…they are going nowhere soon.  I can only hope some one among them is heads-up enough to chronicle their ongoing history and preserve the materials they produced.  On the other hand are congregations which have long-ago closed and chances are good we might not ever know anything of them except a name and possibly a location (for example, Carroll Street Christian Church is absorbed into South College Street in 1920 forming Lindsley Avenue Church of Christ…no paper is known to exist from this church, and I can’t even find one photo of the old building, and there is no one remaining who has living memory of this congregation).  For all practical purposes Carroll Street Church of Christ may remain as mysterious in twenty years as it does now.  I’d be surprised to learn of 3 people now living in the city of Nashville who have even heard of it.

But the several congregations that closed in the 50’s-80’s (and some even in the last five years) remain accessible if only through documents and interviews.  Theoretically the paper (the bulletins, meeting minutes, directories, photographs, even potentially sermon tapes) has a good chance of survival in a basement or attic or closet.  Chances are still good that former members still live, or folks might be around–in Nashville or elsewhere–who grew up at these congregations.  Theoretically.  Potentially.  Hopefully.

Yet as time marches on there are more funerals…for example in the last year I missed opportunities to speak with three elderly folks about their memories at these now-closed churches…they were too ill to speak with me and now they are gone!  I did, however, speak at length with one woman in ther 90’s who I thought died long ago!  She is quite alive and lucid!

So from time to time I will highlight on this blog these closed congregations…closed in the recent past…with hopes that someone somewhere might look for them (I get hits on this blog by folks looking for all sorts of things, among them are several Nashville Churches of Christ).  Maybe we can stir up some interest and surface additional information.

A few days ago I posted about one such congregation, the Twelfth Avenue, North Church of Christ.  I have in the queue a post about New Shops Church of Christ in West Nashville.  There are more, several more.

Stay tuned, and remember, save the paper!

Nashville Churches of Christ History Facebook group

Nashville Churches of Christ History group is open to anyone interested in the history of the Stone-Campbell Movement in Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee. When I began the group about three years ago I said this:

I envision this community as a place to share common interest in the rich story of the Stone-Campbell Movement in Nashville. I am conducting research for a book which will highlight each congregation of Churches of Christ and Christian Churches from the 1810’s to the present…basically the entire movement from its beginning in our city until now. I envision this group as a place to share memories, photos, news and generate discussion and interest. Please join and contribute. Please feel free to contact me directly at icekm (at) aol (dot) com.

Since readership for this blog is significantly higher now than it was in 2010, let me offer another invitation.  The group is open to all. Help spread the word and generate interest. (astogetherwestandandsing…)

Name Authority for Nashville, Tennessee Stone-Campbell Congregations

Name Authority for Nashville Tennessee Stone-Campbell Congregations, September 2012

Click above to download a document listing 319 variants of time-, place- and character-names for the 227 known congregations of the Stone-Campbell movement in Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee from 1812 to September 2012.

To my knowledge my work in this area is the only such compilation, and therefore, the most complete.  The initial publication of the list to this blog was in May 2010 as a first step in my research toward a book on the Restoration Movement in Nashville.  I blogged then:

With over 200 congregations in this county, the congregational research alone will take years, perhaps the remainder of my life.  If I live to be 100 I may not finish even a rudimentary survey.  It may be too much:  too many congregations, too many preachers, too much ‘story’ to tell.

But this is where I am at the present.  I publish the list here to generate interest, additions, subtractions, corrections and clarifications.  Look it over and if I need to make changes, please let me know.

While congregational history is only one aspect of this project, this is where it all played out…on the ground in the congregations on a weekly basis.  Few congregations have attempted more than a list of preachers or a narrative of the expansion of the church building.  What I propose, as I wrote above, may be too much…too far to the other extreme.  But that fact changes not one whit the necessity of it being done.

The story of these churches in Nashville needs to be told.  I ask for your help in telling it.  look over my list; I solicit your critique. Contact me at icekm [at] aol [dot] com.

(The first version of the name authority, from May 2010, can be found here.)

S. H. Hall remembers T. B. Larimore

S. H. Hall remembers T. B. Larimore

Part 2 of Samuel Henry Hall’s reminiscences of three men who significantly influenced his life and ministry: David Lipscomb, T. B. Larimore and James A. Harding.  I prefaced the first installment, on David Lipscomb, with a brief biographical sketch on Hall.  By way of footnotes I again insert a few clarifying details.    Additional information about Hall is available at here.

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Excerpted from chapter 3 of S. H. Hall, Sixty-Five Years in the Pulpit, Or, Compound Interest in Religion. Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1959. Pages 14-15.

T. B. LARIMORE – He was at his best when I began to preach.  I heard so much about him and it was so favorable that I wondered if T. B. Larimore would leave this old world as did Enoch and Elijah and be relieved to what is known as death’s transition.  I have not the words to express the powerful influence he had on me.  We were blessed in our Atlanta work – I believe it was the third year – by having him there for a revival.[1]  He had his peculiarities, which never did any harm to a human soul, but sometimes embarrassed his friends.

            Brother O. B. Curtis, who perhaps knew Larimore as but few knew him, having been with him and led the singing the whole time he lived in Washington, D.C.[2], and who is now out very efficient song leader at Arcadia, California, made the statement a few days ago that he never heard Larimore say one harmful thing about anyone.  This made me think of a little of my experience with him.  I was preaching regularly once a month and doing all the mission work in the summer for a congregation[3] that once had on its board of elders a very shrewd lawyer, who took a position as legal adviser to the leader of a very strong religious cult that believed in Triune Immersion.  He was immersed in this way, doubtless, to please the one who was paying him a big salary.  But his services ended and he returned to his home town and, it seemed, expected to be received in full fellowship and to be recognized as an elder as he was before he left; however, he was not recognized.  He came to my room almost every day complaining about the treatment he was receiving, and spoke of what E. A. Elam, T. B. Larimore and others thought of him.  Some of our best were they, and I was just a very young preacher.  This was just before our move to Atlanta, Georgia.  He had a great deal to say about prophecy and gave me one position which he stated he also gave to Larimore, for which, Larimore said he never thought of before and thanked him most graciously for the thought.  While Larimore was in a revival in Nashville the lawyer chanced to be in Nashville also, and learning of Larimore’s being there and where he was preaching, decided to go and hear him.[4]  He got there a little late, and as he entered the building he was pleased to hear Larimore discussing the very point in prophecy that he has pointed out to him.  So, Larimore, seeing this great lawyer coming down the aisle, at once stopped his sermon and stated: “Friends, since beginning this sermon, I see a friend of mine is here and he knows more about this subject than I do, and I am inviting him to the stand to discuss it in my stead.”  This lawyer had related this a number of times to show what great men such as Larimore had thought of him, and as a rebuke to his elders at home for repudiating him as an elder.  He related this to me a number of times, and deep down in my heart I /15/ did not believe it and made up my mind if I ever met Larimore, I would ask him about it.  So one Christmas, as I was changing trains in Nashville, I met Brother Larimore in the waiting room.  After a little conversation about where I had been and where I was going, I stated, “Brother Larimore, I have a question that I want to ask you, and I hope you will not think it out of place for me to ask it.” I related the whole story, then stated, “I have wondered, Brother Larimore, if you did do this.” Get this – he raised those long arms and gently placed his hands on my shoulders and looked me straight in the eye – his eyes were so gentle and beamed with kindness, and said, “Brother Hall, you will never be any worse off if you never know.  Miss Emma Page is in the women’s waiting room, would you not like to speak to her?”  Into that room we went and I visited awhile and then took my train for home wondering what did he mean by saying, “Brother Hall, you will never be any worse off if you never know.”  My only conclusion was he feared that if he stated the whole story was false, I would abuse the information and say too much about it.  But that’s that.

            What did Larimore mean to me?  Well, I got this great lesson – you need absolutely nothing to be a good preacher of the gospel except to know the Book, the exact sayings of our Lord, and tell it to the people.  If ever a man spoke where the Bible speaks and stayed silent where it is silent, Larimore did just that.


[1] Hall began his work in Atlanta the first of January 1907, see p. 17; Larimore’s meeting there would have been in about 1910.

[2] 1922-1925, see Doug Foster on Larimore in Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, 453.

[3] Smithville, Tennessee, from 1904-1906, see p. 9.  Hall helped establish three congregations in and around Smithville during this time.

[4] Larimore’s first revival in Nashville was in 1885; he preached often for Christian Churches in Nashville from 1885-1906 including a long meeting in 1887 when the South College Street Christian Church was set in order.  David Lipscomb was one of the elders at South College Street from 1887 until his death in 1917.  Larimore and Emma Page were married 1 January 1911; see Terry J. Gardner on Emma Page Larimore in Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, 452.