Willard Collins Preaches at Lischey Avenue Church of Christ, April 26-May 10, 1942

A friend gave me this card about a year ago while I was teaching a class on Stone-Campbell history. While his mother attended Lindsley Avenue Church of Christ as a child, she occasionally visited family across the river in North Edgefield at Lischey Avenue Church. Going through an old scrap book he found this card and graciously gave it to me, knowing it would be a treasured part of my collection (which it is!).

Collins’ meeting-card opens a window into the life of one congregation seventy years ago. It helps us understand how this congregation (Lischey Avenue) and this evangelist (Willard Collins) prosecuted a “gospel meeting.”  All but forgotten now in most urban and suburban churches, ‘gospel meetings’ or ‘revivals’ were common across Protestant denominational lines generations ago.   They are part revival (for those already members of the congregation), part evangelistic or outreach event (for those who are not members of the congregation) and part teaching event (for all concerned).

This meeting begins Sunday April 26th and goes through two full weeks to Sunday May 10th.  Collins preaches twice on Sundays and nightly at 7:40pm.  I am not sure exactly how he handled the two Sunday services since only one title is given on the card.  Nevertheless, judging from the titles alone, Collins’ sermons are at once evangelistic, moralistic, doctrinal and hortatory. He initiates the meeting by first laying out the gospel before proceeding through several conversion stories in Acts. The middle sermons are moralistic: he draws a bead on hypocrisy and congregational life and then addresses the ‘household code.’  I am unsure of what he means by ‘addition problem.’  Collins addresses what appears to be the basic life situation for most of the his auditors at Lischey: church-going working and middle-class families with children.  How ought these folk live?  What is good and right, what is noble?  It appears that these are his overarching moral concerns for the middle of the meeting.

The final three sermons conclude the meeting on a decisive note.  Why should visitors to this meeting seriously consider the Lischey Avenue Church of Christ rather than, say, North Edgefield Baptist Church a short distance away? By 9 May 1942 the United States had been at war with Japan right at six months.  Given the circumstance of spring 1942, how should we live as citizens of a nation at war?  Finally, in what must have been a powerful conclusion: the title is telling: “The Burial of Those Who Die Out of the Lord.”  His last sermon moves his hearers to decision.  Collins’, if anything, was persuasive and moving.

By April 1942 Collins, age  26, preached for Old Hickory Church of Christ about three years.  Old Hickory is a few miles east of Nashville (it is now in the city limits of Metro Nashville), right on the banks of the Cumberland River.  Old Hickory was a thriving little hamlet and Collins’ church was an active, thriving, aggressive congregation.

Lischey Avenue Church of Christ began in 1907 through the door-to-door efforts of two women who canvassed the neighborhood around Joy’s Flower Gardens in North Edgefield.  Joe McPherson preached a tent meeting on James Avenue in August 1909.  By May 1910, thanks to the generosity of T. S. Joy’s donation of a lot, the little church had a frame meetinghouse on Jones Avenue.  They outgrew the building and moved to 1310-1312 Lischey Avenue in May 1923, completing a new building in January 1925.  They then outgrew that building, and in early spring 1942, seventy years ago this week, completed a $20,000 facility.  They arranged for Willard Collins, a dynamic young evangelist, to hold the first two-weeks’ meeting in the new building.  In March 1942 Lischey Avenue was a congregation of about four hundred members.  Collins, writing in his report of the meeting to the Gospel Advocate, says, “The Lischey Avenue meeting, in Nashville, closed May 10, with six hundred fifteen present.  The previous largest crowd in the history of the church was five hundred nineteen.  Fourteen were baptized and one was restored.  This is an active congregation and a pleasant one with which to work.”

While Colllins held forth in East Nashville, Old Hickory was equally busy in a meeting of their own.  In the midst of the Lischey Avenue meeting Collins wrote this report for the Advocate: “One hundred eight have been baptized here and thirty-eight restored in the past eight months.  Nine hundred fifty-two attended Bible classes Sunday for an all-time record.  Hulen L. Jackson just closed a meeting here….”  Collins left Old Hickory in 1944; two years later he began preaching at Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ in West Nashville when Athens Clay Pullias accepted the Presidency of David Lipscomb College.  Collins would soon direct the Lipscomb Expansion Program in the late 40’s, helping DLC move from a two-year Junior College to Four Year Accredited Senior College status.  After years of decline, Lischey Avenue moved out of the neighborhood and, with Parkwood Church, formed Northside Church of Christ in 1976-1978.  Lipscomb College expansion and East Nashville decline, though, are topics for further research reflection.

A single ephemeral handout card, as I have demonstrated here, can be quite helpful.  From this item we have open before us a window into one two-week period in the life of Lischey Avenue Church of Christ.  From it we have some idea of their theological commitments and the program of preaching and teaching they pursued in their community at that time.  In tandem with a few other sources, we are able to see a bit more clearly.  In the fascinating world of research, at times some questions are answered, while new ones are posed, and still altogether different questions surface.

There may be other such cards out there somewhere that may give us additional understanding.  Maybe not…maybe a good deal of the history of this congregaion is lost to time.  There is a lot of history to be written, if only the primary source materials are available.  Do you have any old paper from Lischey Avenue, or any other Church of Christ or Christian Church in Nashville?  If so, I’d like to talk with you about how those important materials can be preserved.  For my plea along those lines, see my 3 July 2009 post, Save the Paper.

Bibliography:

Willard Collins’ meeting reports:

       Gospel Advocate, May 7, 1942, page 450
       Gospel Advocate, May 21, 1942, page 498

More about Lischey Avenue history and work:

“Lischey Home-Coming in New Building,” Gospel Advocate, March 5, 1942, page 237.
Batsell Barrett Baxter and M. Norvel Young, Eds. New Testament Churches of Today, Volume 1. Nashville:                       Gospel Advocate Company, 1960, page 237.

For a helpful study of the intersection of local history and congregational history, with a focus on the Old Hickory Church of Christ, see:

C. Philip Slate, Du Pont’s Old Hickory Employee Movement and the Spread of Churches of Christ” Restoration Quarterly 39:3 (1997) pages 155-174.

——-

Lischey Avenue Church of Christ’s 1942 (with a ca. 1959 classroom building) building yet stands at 1312 Lischey Avenue.  This is as it appeared about two years ago:

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12 thoughts on “Willard Collins Preaches at Lischey Avenue Church of Christ, April 26-May 10, 1942

  1. This brings back so many good memories to me because it was at this Gospel Meeting that I was baptized by Brother Willard Collins. I was nine years old and my parents were concerned that I was too young but after talking with Brother Collins, they agreed that I was ready to be baptized into the Lord. Years later while my son was preaching at the Chapel Hill congregation, he met Brother Collins and told him that he had baptized his mother when she was nine years old.
    Clara Mai (Farrell) Brooks

    • Thank you Clara; what do you remember about this meeting? I suspect it must have been an energetic and exciting two weeks.

      • I remember vaguely as we discussed getting that first AOL account and thinking to myself “Now, we just have to find the money to digitize the entire archive”. A third generation missionary had come to visit DCHS and said something to the effect: “Now, if we could only find the funds to build a library for the folks” {someplace in Africa, I don’t recall now, but there was a “Z” involved somewhere}. I remember thinking, “No, bud; you need to find the funds to buy a laptop and satellite uplink because the library is coming to you”. I THANK GOD that you and the Campbell-Stone librarians and archivists (and those thru out “Christendom”) are going thru the efforts necessary to make these treasures globally available (in blogs or whatever format). And on a tangentially related note, here’s some newsletters about the indigenous national research and education networks / alliances which have sprung up in Africa: http://www.ubuntunet.net/nuance

      • Thanks Ed for the kind words. I remember talking with you at perhaps one of the first Kirkpatrick or Reed lectures in 1992 or 1993. Now that I think about it, 1992 or 1993 means that was 20 years ago! I was a mere lad. 🙂

        My efforts at digitization and preservation are now wholly freelance…that’s a nice way to put it. Reality is I just post stuff from my own collection, I represent no one but myself.

  2. Fascinating — thanks, Mac! What do you make of the 7:40 evening time (vs. 7:30 on Sunday)? Traffic in 1942? Bus schedules? factory shift times? Also, might “addition” be a typo for “addiction?” That would be cutting-edge for the times. Or maybe a cute “addition-subtraction-multiplication-division” lesson? Are his papers extant? In a collection?

    • Unsure about the time; all of your suggestions are worth looking into. Likewise for ‘addition.’ I think Collins papers were donated in toto to Beaman Library Special Collections at Lipscomb U. Natural place for them to go.

  3. Pingback: Mac Ice’s eScriptorium, DCHS, Monuments to our Past as Pointers to Our Futures

  4. Thank you for the article and pictures. I grew up at Lischey Ave and attended there until they moved to Northside. I have many great memories there. My two older brothers and my sister were all married there. Two by G. C. Bucy and the last by Dwight Spurlock. I will have to share this with my mom who attended there with her parents and sisters until they moved. Again thank you so very much.

    Lisa

  5. We might suspect that “the Christian’s Problem of Addition” has to do with the venerable slogan among Churches of Christ about “neither taking from nor adding to” the instructions and examples given in Scripture. While others might readily “take from,” those who identify themselves as “Christians” are often more tempted to “add to” in order to do what pleases them in the service of God — as, for example, musical instruments in worship or parachurch organizations to do church work “more efficiently” or “more effectively” (or, for the promoter, more profitably).

    This meeting card is a lovely piece of ephemera that may our help our understanding of “church life” and preaching in Gnashville during the second world war. It is something to preserve and cherish.

    God’s Peace to you.

  6. I attended Lischey Avenue from early 1950s until 1971. In 1959 Paul S. Hunton baptized me and in 1970 he married me and my husband. I saw many great speakers come to Lischey for tent gospel meetings. The basement of the church is like being in a cave, and for a child kind of spooky, but that is also where my wedding reception took place. I taught sunday school in our educational building built in 1959. Remember the building program. The men listed in the article on the building program were dear family friends, and I knew each of these elders. Remember the fire and brimstone sermons from some of the evangelists and also heard them later in older adult life. We do not hear sermons like that anymore, but then that is what gained we ‘campbellites’ the ‘you think you are the only ones going to heaven’ label. Answer to that: none of us know where we are going, only God knows.

    • Oh, yes, my parents continued to be members at Lischey Avenue which became Northside Church of Christ. Until five years ago (2007) when my father passed away, my parents were still devoted members. Many Lischey Avenue originals are still at Northside, but the years are taking their toll.

      • Thanks for the comments, Sandra. Do you happen to have any old photos or bulletins or directories or old meeting ad cards from Lischey? I have yet to find a photo of the earlier church buildings. Do you know anyone in particular I should seek out at Northside? You may contact me privately at

        icekm [at] aol [dot] com

        Thank you again for commenting.

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