African-American Churches of Christ in Nashville: W. M. Slay preaches in Northeast Nashville, 1889

This notice appears in the 20 November 1889 Gospel Advocate at page 739:

GA 11.20.1889.739


I have been having a protracted meeting in North-east Edgefield.  I have established a congregation with nine members.  I administer the loaf with them every Lord’s day.  I am also teaching in South Nashville, had one addition last night, Bro. Calvin Hardison, by confession and reclamation.  Please note that we will start a protracted meeting Wednesday night, the 13th of this month.  I preach three times every Lord’s day, twice in South Nashville, and at 3 P. M. in Edgefield.


Nashville, Nov. 11, ’89.

There have been four baptisms at Gay Street church recently under the preaching of Bro. Howell.



It is difficult to compile a short list of lacunae in Nashville Stone-Campbell history.  A thorough-going narrative of the rise of black Churches of Christ, vis-a-vis Gay Street Christian Church would make such a list, and high on it, too.  Back of that, though, is the rise of Second Christian Church (the name by which is known Gay Street in earlier days) vis-a-vis the white Church Street Christian Church, of which Philip Slater Fall was long-time pastor.  Its deep origins lie in the ‘colored’ Sunday Schools of the 1830’s and there is some connection to the slaves owned by William Giles Harding, horse-breeder extraordinaire and owner Belle Meade mansion.  They worshiped as Grapevine Christian Church, very likely in the plantation’s vineyard.

If we are to meet these lacunae head-on, notices such as this in Gospel Advocate will be exceedingly helpful.  I am confident others, perhaps many more, are out there in Gospel Advocate alone. Similar items exist in Christian Standard.  If we ever find old issues of Christian Echo…ever…what a gold mine that would be!

I post it to raise awareness: there is a significant gap in our understanding of the local congregational context from which emerged the Womack-Bowser-Keeble orbit of black acapella Churches of Christ.  Such published reports are one kind of light.  Another source are congregational records.  Then there are personal familial archives containing photos, letters, mementos.  Any of these are immensely helpful, but I want to raise awareness that the congregational records, if there be any…if any were even kept…if anyone originated a list of members or kept tally of income and expenses…will break new ground and lift our eyes to new horizons of understanding.  I also post it as an appeal: who has anything to contribute to this story?  As always, I welcome input, suggestions and corrections.

7 thoughts on “African-American Churches of Christ in Nashville: W. M. Slay preaches in Northeast Nashville, 1889

  1. Reading through the early Gospel Advocate from 1855, wherever those collections exist — in print or on film — will help to fill in the gaps for African American disciples in Gnashville, and other locations as well. Close reading, one page at a time, takes time and, often, the gift of discernment. There is no substitute for it.

    i continue to hope that someone saved the Christian Echo before 1939 and that we will find it before it is lost. Libraries and librarians failed in this responsibility before Enos Dowling had the consciousness to subscribe. Even more remarkably, the Christian Counselor — published by the Gospel Advocate Company and edited by Marshall Keeble! — never existed in libraries before Annie May Alston began looking for it. We may continue to hope that someone saved that one also. In the meanwhile, preservation of letters, documents, and publications is an imperative for every congregation.

    God’s Peace to you.


  2. Hi. I’m working on a project that directly deals with the Gay Street Christian Church. An event about the National Ex-Slave Pension took place here in late November of 1899. I’m having a hard time in search engine’s trying to find the correct name of the church today. Do you know if The Gay Street Christian church still exists?

    • Hello Chad, sounds fascinating; I will want to learn more about it when you complete your project. Gay St. continues, through a merger with Lea Avenue Christian Church, to become Gay-Lea Christian Church, now known as New Covenant Christian Church. See I am happy to provide you space on this blog to share your research if you’d like.

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