The December 6, 1917 issue of Gospel Advocate was devoted to the memory of the recently-deceased David Lipscomb. It is a rich treasure of memories and tributes. To my knowledge this issue was the first to carry Lipscomb’s photograph on the cover. Similar covers followed in 1931 (the July 11 Davidson County Special Number) and 1939 (the December 7 special issue about the history of the Nashville congregations).
These three issues are of significant historical value. As primary sources they provide information unavailable elsewhere. As interpretive reflections they are a beginning point for how Lipscomb was remembered and how congregational history was recorded and carried forward. The 1917 issue, other than newspaper obituaries and Price Billingsley’s diary, is the first secondary source about the life and impact of David Lipscomb. The Billingsley diary (housed at Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University) contains a description of the funeral along with its author’s candid thoughts and impressions. It was not intended, at the time, for public reading.
The issue of the Advocate, however, is a product of the McQuiddy Printing Company and is most certainly intended to capture the mood and ethos in the air just after Lipscomb’s death and by way of the mails deliver it to subscribers wherever they may be. In point of time, it is the first published sustained historical reflection on Lipscomb’s life and ministry. The 1931 and 1939 special issues focus on Lipscomb’s activity on the ground among the citizens of Nashville’s neighborhoods. Here his legacy is as a church planter: an indefatigable, patient, faithful steward. He plants, he teaches, he preaches, he organizes. He observes shifting residential patterns and responds with congregational leadership development. To meet the needs of the emerging streetcar suburbs, he urges elders to take charge of teaching responsibilities, engage evangelists and establish congregations through peaceful migrations and church plants. The 1931 and 1939 issues are testimonies to the effects of this approach. Along the way they preserve details and photographic evidence that is simply unavailable elsewhere.
Today’s shooting at Burnette Chapel Church brings great sadness. The Churches of Christ community in Nashville can be a very close-knit web of relationships, kinships, and friendships. When Laura and I taught at Ezell-Harding we formed many friendships and some of those reach into Burnette Chapel Church, including Joey and Peggy Spann. Other connections revolve around common connections we have all over town. Today’s tragedy touches the web in all kinds of ways.
The last time I was at Burnette Chapel, in 2011 I think, I came in just a few minutes after the evening services began. Joey was very warm and kindly introduced me to several folks who could help me with my history pursuit. Burnette Chapel is an old congregation with deep roots in that part of the Nashville/Davidson County community.
Some time ago I posted a few tidbits about Burnette Chapel history on the Nashville Churches of Christ Facebook group:
Samuel Parker Pittman was a fixture, first as a student, then on the faculty, at Nashville Bible School/David Lipscomb College. He preached his first sermon at Burnette Chapel in the fall of 1892, at the ripe age of 16 years. This is the old Burnette Chapel building, the site of which is now under the waters of Percy Priest Lake. The current building is not far from the lake. These photos are from the 1954 biography of S. P. Pittman. Also, TB Larimore preached his first sermon at Burnette Chapel while he was a young student at Tolbert Fanning’s Franklin College. This is a fine example of a congregation growing preachers the organic, natural way: slowly, patiently, lovingly, fanning the flame of the gifts of the Spirit. Burnette Chapel was not unique in this regard; neither were Pittman and Larimore. Jim Allen got his start this way, so did David Lipscomb, Lytton Alley, the Cullum’s, Joe McPherson, Marshall Keeble, and a host of local elders and deacons who regularly taught and fed the flocks in addition to carrying full-time employment responsibilities in the marketplace and family responsibilities at home.
My thoughts, now, though are not on the past, but the very much on the pressing grief and shock of the moment.