Praying with our Ancestors: A Prayer for Truth

ACU Library hosts a weekly chapel for our students, student workers, faculty and staff. I was asked to pray in last week’s assembly. I chose to draw from the well of our history rather than bring a word of spontaneous prayer. I reflected on what we are trying to do in the library, not just the tasks we perform, but a core reason for our existence at the heart of the university’s life and mission. I reflected on what we are trying to accomplish in a weekly gathering of students and faculty. I reflected on why we collect and steward information resources in our spaces, why and how our community uses these resources, and to what ends. I then spent some time with J. H. Garrison.

As is the case with most of my friends, Garrison has been dead a good long while. But while he was among the living he contributed mightily to the devotional spirit of the Stone-Campbell movement. Arguably his Alone With God is the classic work on the inner devotional life.  He wasn’t the only one who tried to develop this sense among us, and you’ll have to gauge for yourself whether he even did it well, but every time I read him I’m better for it.

My reflections about the nature of our work in our space converged with Garrison’s prayer for truth.

Living as we do in a world charmed by lies, half-truths, near-truths, and spin, I think it wise to pause for a moment and pray for truth.  Living as we do in a context rife with passive-aggression, innuendo, rhetorical slight of hand, I think it wise to pause and pray and seek truth.  Living and working in a community of scholars, nearly every last thing we do is a search for truth: we research, we investigate, we experiment, we hypothesize, we inquire, we discover, we assess, we interpret.  It is good for us along this way to gather and pray for truth.

James Harvey Garrison’s ‘Prayer for Truth’* in Alone With God** (St. Louis: Christian Publishing Company, 1891), 151:

O God, the God of truth, mercifully grant that the Holy Spirit of Truth may rule our hearts, grafting therein love of truth, and making us in all our thoughts and words and works, to study, speak, and follow truth, that we may be sincere before all people, and blameless before Thee.  May no unworthy prejudice or sectarian pride prevent us from accepting whatever bears the divine impress of Thy truth.  May we love the truth, know the truth, and be made free by the truth; for His sake who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and in whom is no guile, even Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen!

*I adapted Garrison’s pronouns.  I changed them from singular to plural and where he prayed to be ‘blameless before men’, I prayed ‘blameless before all people.’

**Read the first edition here or purchase a new edition here.

This post is co-published at Charis, an online space for conversations of and about Churches of Christ.

Leander Moore preaches at Central Church of Christ (Deaf), 1960s

Several years ago I was given a few photographs and other paper items from the estate of Owen Pryor, one of the early ministers to the deaf at Nashville’s Central Church of Christ.  Among them is this photograph of Leander Moore preaching to the deaf congregation.  It is as fine an example of chart preaching as I have seen.

Photograph, Leander Moore at Central Church of Christ (Deaf), 1960s. Nashville, Tennessee.

Photograph, Leander Moore at Central Church of Christ (Deaf), 1960s. Nashville, Tennessee.

Nashville Churches of Christ in 1885

I have at hand Year-Book of the Disciples of Christ, Their Membership, Missions, Ministry, Educational and Other Institutions. Cincinnati: General Christian Missionary Convention, 1885.

This was not the first attempt to gather statistics, but we may regard as the first of its kind and scope.  Earlier attempts did quite well to list preachers and names of congregations. The 1885 Yearbook lists congregations in 38 American states and territories plus Canada, Great Britain, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania.  Under each state, territory or country, the congregations are listed in nearly alphabetical order by the name of the church.  At least all the names starting with the same letter are grouped together.  Not truly alphabetical, but close.  Also included are lists of preachers and descriptions of mission activity, higher educational institutions and literary output.

What sets the 1885 book apart from its sporadic predecessors is that for each congregation it also provides names of elders, Post Office [the closest thing in 1885 to an address as we know it], the frequency of preaching [tri-monthly, monthly, semi-monthly, weekly, irregular or no data provided], number of members, number of Sunday School pupils, number of officers and teachers [presumably within the Sunday School arrangement], value of church property, the amount raised in 1883 for local work, the amount raised in 1883 for missions, and the name of the regular preacher in 1884.

At 159 pages the document is by a large margin the largest and broadest such directory undertaken thus far among the Stone-Campbell movement.  However, it has significant limitations.  The compiler, evidently Robert Moffett of Cleveland, Ohio, states in the first sentence of the General Introduction that “It can not be too forcibly enjoined on all who examine this Year-Book, that no pretensions to completeness are made for it.  On the contrary, it is expressly claimed that its statistics are very incomplete.”  He cites the organizing committee’s utter lack of financial resources and serious disorganization as factors mitigating against a fuller or more accurate compilation.  As a ” work of purely voluntary goodwillI…” Moffett states, “it may well be regarded as surprising that they have accomplished so much.”

The committee relied upon the personal-informational network put in place by advocates of missionary societies to gather their statistics: “That only in States having well-established and vigorous State organizations–such as Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia–has it been possible to obtain even approximately full lists of the churches; and much less their statistics.”  In short, the advocates of the Society kept track of the churches in their area.  Some states, such as Kentucky, Georgia, Indiana, Texas and Arkansas, “there has not been the same pains taken by the State organizations to gather statistics.”  Finally, “in other quarters–such as Tennessee and the majority of the Southern and far Western states and Territories–they have been obliged to depend on individual aid–generally on such preachers as were known to them.  Hence their work must be regarded as merely a beginning.”

There are 264 Tennessee congregations listed.  None of those in Nashville are among this number.  Not Church Street or Second Christian downtown nor Woodland Street in East Nashville.  Outlying county congregations like South Harpeth, Philippi, and on out to Lavergne, Franklin and Owen Chapel are also missing.  Tucker’s Crossroads or Bethlehem in Wilson County is there, along with Bush’s Chapel in Sumner County up on the ridge and Sycamore over in Cheatham County.  But no Nashville congregations, not a one of them.

The list of preachers for Tennessee was hastily added late, after the majority of preachers were compiled into the main listing.  Of the 2620 preachers listed, here are those with Nashville addresses: R. Lin Cave [who was at Church Street in downtown], J. P. Grigg [who preached all over but chiefly in 1885 at the infant North Nashville, or 8th Avenue North congregation], David Lipscomb [a member at Church Street in 1885], William Lipscomb [listed in Brentwood, but still very close], W. J. Loos [who was at Woodland Street in East Nashville as a regular preacher], J. C. McQuiddy {who was at the infant Foster Street mission in North Edgefield], a Rawlings [who knows?], E. G. Sewell {an elder at Woodland Street], Rice Sewell [listed as Donleson, in Davidson County], and E. S. B. Waldron [listed as Lavergne, on the Davidson/Rutherford county line].  No other Tennessee city has as many resident preachers as Nashville.  One one African-American preacher was listed in Tennessee, H. Hankal in East Tennessee.

The Block River [could be Black River] church in Connersville, reported 250 members with no pupils in Sunday School; they did not report the amount spent in local or mission work. They heard preaching monthly by Joseph Hill.

The Catby’s Creek [almost surely the Cathey’s Creek] church, at Isom’s Store, reported monthly preaching by T. I. Brooks.  A congregation of 300 members, they had 25 Sunday School pupils, taught by four teachers.  With property valued at $2000, this congregation spent $100 for local work and $40 for mission work in 1883.

The McMinnville congregation, meeting weekly for preaching by George W. Sweeney, had 350 members, 125 in a Sunday School taught by five teachers.  Their property was valued at $5000.  They spent $2500 at home and $100 for mission work in 1883.  I have a neat old photograph of the McMinnville meetinghouse.  It reads ‘Church of God’ in the stone tablet high above the front door.  I will have to post it here sometime.

There are a few other congregations reporting memberships between 100-200, but in Tennessee, the Block river, Cathey’s Creek and McMinnville are the largest as recorded in the 1885 Year-Book.  The McMinnville congregation tied with Fayetteville in terms of the value of church property ($5000) and with the Memphis congregation for the amount spent in local work ($2500).  A few other churches show property valued above $1000, but McMinnville and Memphis are far and away the leaders in expenditures, as reported in this book.

Today in Restoration History: 17 June 1810

After a long hiatus, I intend to resume blogging on a fairly regular basis by the end of the summer.  In the mean time, here is a little gem from Herald of Gospel Liberty of Friday morning 22 June 1810, p. 192.


Hymn on Baptism.

The following Hymn was composed by a Brother, in Portland [Maine], and sung at the water side, Lord’s day, June 17, 1810, where 4 were baptized:–

1 Constrain’d by Love we come,
Down to this water side,
To imitate God’s only Son,
The CHRISTIANS only guide.

2 He has commanded us,
To be Baptiz’d with him;
And cheerfully take up the cross,
Renouncing ev’ry sin.

3 Here then we would begin,
His blessed cross to bear,
In token of our death to sin,
We would be Baptiz’d here.

4 Here we would shew his death,
And resurrection clear;
And him through grace while we have breath
We’ll worship, love and fear.

5 O all that love him come,
What now can hinder you;
Here’s water, you believe the Son,
Then be baptized too.

6 Sinners this is the way,
Christ and th’ Apostles faith;
Believe and be baptiz’d to day,
We’re sure you will be bless’d.

7 As servants here we sing,
And that for joy of heart;
We have believ’d, and will obey,
O God thy grace impart.

22nd Avenue Church of Christ, Nashville, TN

Among the Churches of Christ recently (within the last 40 or so years) closed in Nashville is the 22nd Avenue Church in North Nashville.

Begun as a mission from Twelfth Avenue, North Church in the early 1920’s, Twenty-Second Avenue was always a rather small congregation and never a wealthy or affluent one.

The earliest record I can find of it in the Nashville city directories is in 1926 when it met at 1609 22nd Ave. North.  The 1937 City Directory lists the congregation as meeting at 1626 22nd Avenue North.  On 14 October 1932 the building, presumably at 1609, burned.  In debt and poor (“our membership is composed mainly of people who have little of this world’s goods…”), they met in private homes and a former automobile repair shop on 21st Avenue until funds were raised to buy the corner lot at 1626 22nd Avenue and Osage Street.  Upon it they constructed with donated labor and supplies a small frame meetinghouse. See Gospel Advocate 1933:93.

The photo below is, I assume, of the second building at 1626 22nd Avenue, North:

in 1933 the congregation had three elders, W. T. Phillips, H. V. McCool and A. B. Sweeney, with G. A. Helton serving as Treasurer.  They supported, partially, a “Brother Jones” in Metropolis, Illinois and maintained a “small fund for foreign mission work” in addition to local benevolence ministry.

From 1933 to 1979 my trail grows cold.

By 1979 I understand that 22nd Avenue relocated north of the Cumberland River to 3903 Milford Road.  Alas! I see from Google Maps that whatever structure existed at 3903 Milford Road, it has very recently seen the business end of a wrecking ball.  Milford Road Church of Christ does not appear in the 1983 Where the Saints Meet. A Google search turns up Rose of Sharon Primitive Baptist Church using that address.  Yet if Google Maps is any indication, there is no one meeting in any building at 3903 Milford Road today.  I may have missed my chance to photograph the Milford Road building by a few months.

Who might have information from 22nd Avenue Church of Christ: bulletins, directories or photographs?  Who could fill in any information, at all, in the forty year gap from 1933-1973?  Who has a photograph of the first building at 1609 22nd Avenue? Or of the Milford Road structure?  Who preached for this congregation?  Where did the members go when they disbanded?  Are any former members still living?