The Christian Churches who used instrumental music in worship and conducted mission work through organized societies were never strong in Nashville. Comparatively speaking there were far more members and scores more congregations among the conservatives. This is due to the local on-the-ground leadership of conservatives whose convictions closely paralleled David Lipscomb and E. G. Sewell (which found expression in the pages of Gospel Advocate), the school Lipscomb established (Nashville Bible School), and especially the congregations they planted.
Yet, the Christian Churches planted a few congregations. The old downtown congregation, Vine Street Christian Church, was the most visible and well-known and served as the ‘mother church’ to most of the earliest church plants in the city limits. Vine Street, with Woodland Street, assisted in planting Seventeenth Street Christian Church in East Nashville. Further out along Gallatin Road was Eastland Christian Church (built in a day, too!). In North Nashville the state society (with assistance from Vine Street) planted a little mission on Clay Street at 10th Avenue, North. Vine Street assisted also with the efforts at North Spruce Street (later 8th Ave. North) in 1885 and South College Street in 1887, both of which predated division over the issues, remained acapella, and did not support societies.
Zenos Sanford Loftis was a student at Vanderbilt Medical School ca. 1903-1904. He earned his Ph.C. from Vanderbilt in 1901 (and would stay to complete the MD in 1908) and had experience in “slum work” in St. Louis. It appears the working-class neighborhood of emerging North Nashville appealed to Loftis as an ideal place to plant a congregation. With the assistance of Vine Street Christian Church and the Tennessee Christian Missionary Society the mission launched. Loftis graduated and sailed for Tibet in September the same year as the Living Link missionary of Vine Street Christian Church. The little band at Clay Street continued with Vanderbilt divinity students filling the pulpit.
Clay Street Christian Church (at 10th and Clay in North Nashville) by 1909 erected a small one-room frame building at the rear of the lot. The “entire lot on which the present Church now stands  was purchased and paid for by the members, donations, the Ladies Croquet Clubs, and by Socials over a period of struggling years.” For almost twenty years it perked along under the service of temporary, year-at-a-time ministers–mainly Vanderbilt divinity students–until 1927 when Stanley H. Dysart began a ten-year term as minister. The 1910s and 20s were decades of growth for their neighborhood and congregation. A feature of the weekly church program was a Sunday School which often topped 200 pupils. By then Vine Street Christian Church was heavily involved which seems to have given the little mission the push it needed to launch out as a viable independent congregation. Some of the Vanderbilt students who served Clay Street are known only by their last names: Morgan, Vance, Shepard, Reynolds, Hoosinger, Spiegel, Saum and Harris.
Dysart began with a 14-member mission, four Sunday School classes, and the backing of Vine Street Church. Dysart’s month-long July 1928 tent meetings gave a major boost, adding over forty members to reach a membership of 59. A year later the little frame building at the rear of the lot was replaced by the neat brick building that still stands.
Clay Street membership reached a peak of about 200 members through the 1930s-1940s into the 1950s. Long-time Vine Street minister, Dr. Carey E. Morgan, inspired an outreach program named in his honor: the Carey E. Morgan Baby Welfare Clinic.” By 1960, however, most members no longer lived in the neighborhood and drove in from the suburbs to attend services. Financially they were only able to support a minister and keep the doors open. In April 1960 the minister wrote to the Alex Mooty, secretary of the Tennessee Christian missionary Society “we are in an area that is fast becoming a Negro area. In two years I have seen five Negro families move in on Clay St. between 10th and Owent [sic] across the street from the church.” In 1960 there were only five residences between 10th and Owen; in other words, that side of the street opposite the church building went from all-white to all-black from 1954-1955 to 1959-1960.
In September 1960 the minister, citing “the population moves, racial migration, and spiritual indifference,” resigned in the face of a “growing feeling of discontentment” among the congregation. The congregation badly needed encouragement, trained leadership, and a larger vision.
A dozen years later, by 1972, after years of declining membership and conflict, at times there would be only two or four present for worship. The consensus of the remaining members was to disband and return the property to Vine Street through the Tennessee Christian Missionary Society. When Clay Street mission launched in about 1904 it joined these Christian Churches: Vine Street, Gay Street, Lea Avenue, Woodland Street, Seventeenth Street, and Belleview. Eastland, University Place, Woodmont, and Donelson would join the ranks by the middle of the 20th century.
Eastland and Woodland Street would merge to form Eastwood; Vine Street would launch Woodmont; Gay Street and Lea Avenue would merge to form Gay-Lea; University Place would close, as would Seventeenth Street. The situation in 1972, in terms of number of congregations and congregants, differed little from 1904. While the conservative Christian Churches–by the 1920s exclusively known as Churches of Christ–outpaced the Disciples in both number of congregations and adherents, they would reach the zenith of their growth in the 1970s and thereafter enter a slow overall decline.
Since 2002 Swift Tabernacle Baptist Church has called home the brick building built for Clay Street Christian Church in 1929. I took these photos in the early morning light of May 26, 2010: