Central Church of Christ, Nashville, TN, 7 December 1939

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Central

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A strategy for congregational research

My Nashville research across the last ten years has evolved from an interest in Central Church (where I was then Associate Minister) to a much, much larger scope including each congregation in the county, every para-church ministry based in Nashville, and how the larger issues within Stone-Campbell history interact with local history in one city resulting in the ministry conducted on ground, in the trenches, in the congregations.  With that comes the innumerable evangelists, ministers and pastors who held forth weekly from pulpits across the city. Ambitious? Yes.  Perhaps too ambitious.  That may be a fair criticism, but the field is fertile and the more I survey the landscape and read the sources and uncover additional data, the more I’m convinced to stay the course.

In the last four years especially I have focused my efforts to obtain information about the smaller congregations, closed congregations, particularly congrgations which have closed in the last 40 to 50 years.  My rationale for this focus is that some history here is in some cases, potentially recoverable.  There are larger affluent congregations which have appearances of vitality…they are going nowhere soon.  I can only hope some one among them is heads-up enough to chronicle their ongoing history and preserve the materials they produced.  On the other hand are congregations which have long-ago closed and chances are good we might not ever know anything of them except a name and possibly a location (for example, Carroll Street Christian Church is absorbed into South College Street in 1920 forming Lindsley Avenue Church of Christ…no paper is known to exist from this church, and I can’t even find one photo of the old building, and there is no one remaining who has living memory of this congregation).  For all practical purposes Carroll Street Church of Christ may remain as mysterious in twenty years as it does now.  I’d be surprised to learn of 3 people now living in the city of Nashville who have even heard of it.

But the several congregations that closed in the 50’s-80’s (and some even in the last five years) remain accessible if only through documents and interviews.  Theoretically the paper (the bulletins, meeting minutes, directories, photographs, even potentially sermon tapes) has a good chance of survival in a basement or attic or closet.  Chances are still good that former members still live, or folks might be around–in Nashville or elsewhere–who grew up at these congregations.  Theoretically.  Potentially.  Hopefully.

Yet as time marches on there are more funerals…for example in the last year I missed opportunities to speak with three elderly folks about their memories at these now-closed churches…they were too ill to speak with me and now they are gone!  I did, however, speak at length with one woman in ther 90’s who I thought died long ago!  She is quite alive and lucid!

So from time to time I will highlight on this blog these closed congregations…closed in the recent past…with hopes that someone somewhere might look for them (I get hits on this blog by folks looking for all sorts of things, among them are several Nashville Churches of Christ).  Maybe we can stir up some interest and surface additional information.

A few days ago I posted about one such congregation, the Twelfth Avenue, North Church of Christ.  I have in the queue a post about New Shops Church of Christ in West Nashville.  There are more, several more.

Stay tuned, and remember, save the paper!

Nashville Churches of Christ History Facebook group

Nashville Churches of Christ History group is open to anyone interested in the history of the Stone-Campbell Movement in Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee. When I began the group about three years ago I said this:

I envision this community as a place to share common interest in the rich story of the Stone-Campbell Movement in Nashville. I am conducting research for a book which will highlight each congregation of Churches of Christ and Christian Churches from the 1810’s to the present…basically the entire movement from its beginning in our city until now. I envision this group as a place to share memories, photos, news and generate discussion and interest. Please join and contribute. Please feel free to contact me directly at icekm (at) aol (dot) com.

Since readership for this blog is significantly higher now than it was in 2010, let me offer another invitation.  The group is open to all. Help spread the word and generate interest. (astogetherwestandandsing…)

Name Authority for Nashville, Tennessee Stone-Campbell Congregations

Name Authority for Nashville Tennessee Stone-Campbell Congregations, September 2012

Click above to download a document listing 319 variants of time-, place- and character-names for the 227 known congregations of the Stone-Campbell movement in Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee from 1812 to September 2012.

To my knowledge my work in this area is the only such compilation, and therefore, the most complete.  The initial publication of the list to this blog was in May 2010 as a first step in my research toward a book on the Restoration Movement in Nashville.  I blogged then:

With over 200 congregations in this county, the congregational research alone will take years, perhaps the remainder of my life.  If I live to be 100 I may not finish even a rudimentary survey.  It may be too much:  too many congregations, too many preachers, too much ‘story’ to tell.

But this is where I am at the present.  I publish the list here to generate interest, additions, subtractions, corrections and clarifications.  Look it over and if I need to make changes, please let me know.

While congregational history is only one aspect of this project, this is where it all played out…on the ground in the congregations on a weekly basis.  Few congregations have attempted more than a list of preachers or a narrative of the expansion of the church building.  What I propose, as I wrote above, may be too much…too far to the other extreme.  But that fact changes not one whit the necessity of it being done.

The story of these churches in Nashville needs to be told.  I ask for your help in telling it.  look over my list; I solicit your critique. Contact me at icekm [at] aol [dot] com.

(The first version of the name authority, from May 2010, can be found here.)

Name Authority for Nashville, Tennessee Stone-Campbell Congregations

Name Authority for Nashville Tennessee Stone-Campbell Congregations

Click above to download a document listing 286 variants of time-, place- and character-names for the 228 known congregations of the Stone-Campbell movement in Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee from 1820 to May 2010.

To my knowledge this is the first such compilation, and therefore, the most complete.  The publication of the list to this blog is a first step in my research toward a book on the Restoration Movement in Nashville.  With over 200 congregations in this county, the congregational research alone will take years, perhaps the remainder of my life.  If I live to be 100 I may not finish even a rudimentary survey.  It may be too much:  too many congregations, too many preachers, too much ‘story’ to tell. 

But this is where I am at the present.  I publish the list here to generate interest, additions, subtractions, corrections and clarifications.  Look it over and if I need to make changes, please let me know.

The story of these churches in Nashville needs to be told.  I ask for your help in telling it.

Save the Paper

Regular readers of this blog know that one of my research interests is Nashville’s Stone-Campbell heritage.  Judging from the folks who find my blog by searching for old Nashville churches like Foster Street Christian Church or Vine Street Christian Church or South College Street Church of Christ, I see I am not alone in my interest.  Here’s my appeal:

I am assembling information from, by and about these churches, ministers and related organizations.  Do you have paper (like directories or bulletins), photographs, sermons, postcards, old issues of periodicals like Gospel Advocate or Apostolic Times or ephemera from Nashville events like the Hardeman Tabernacle meetings or the Collins-Craig Auditorium Meeting, or the Nashville Jubilee?  Do you have photographs or postcards of church buildings?  For that matter, do you have an old map of Nashville that shows what the city was like in the 1940’s?  or earlier? Do you have clippings from the newspapers about people or events or congregations in the Nashville or Davidson County area?   Do you have memories of growing up at Vine Street Christian Church when it was still downtown?  Or Reid Avenue Church of Christ, Russell Street Church of Christ or Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ (all three are now closed)?  Would you be willing to talk with me–in person or by email or even by postal mail–to share your memories?  Would you allow me to borrow your old paper, copy it and learn from it?

Old paper is the stuff from which history is written.  And if it isn’t preserved then not only will vital data be lost but a story will be silenced.  I believe the Nashville story is a rich story, and a story worth keeping and worth telling and worth preserving.   With every funeral we lose some memory or story.  The time has come for us to assemble what remains while we can, and ensure that through its preservation the story will not be forgotten.

Check the steamer trunks in your attics, the boxes in your basements and the files in the closets.  Before you throw it away, email me.  Let’s preserve it.

icekm (at) aol (dot) com

Joseph Avenue Church of Christ

“May God’s blessing attend every sermon preached and every exhortation delivered over this sacred board. God bless every child of God at Joseph Ave. and crown their every (effort) for the advancement of the cause of Christ made by them in harmony with His will. This the prayer of an humble child of God,” inscribed B.C. Wilkes, Sept. 25th, 1905 on the underside of the pulpit he made for a new congregation.

 

A relatively young church itself, the Foster Street Christian Church in 1905 saw a need as the neighborhood developed to the north.  They greatly encouraged Joe McPherson in his tent meetings.  A new congregation was formed and later that same year, on the same lot, the church completed a building on the west side of Joseph Avenue at Scott Street (now Richardson Street).  The congregation of about nine families assembled to be taught and exhorted from Mr. Wilkes’ pulpit.

 

By 1921, the building being too small, the congregation built a larger building and moved across the street to the east side of Joseph Avenue.  This building still stands, serving the neighborhood in gospel preaching and the care of souls; it is now used an outreach center and Children’s Bible Theater by Nashville Inner City Ministry, an outreach of local Churches of Christ.

 

The work of the church consisted of preaching the gospel, caring for sick, the poor and the needy, and supporting missions, both foreign and domestic.  Revivals were held by some of the best-known writers, editors and evangelists in Churches of Christ, such as (among others) James A. Allen, D. H. Friend, R. H. Boll, Charles R. Brewer, C. E. W. Dorris, J. S. Ward, S. H. Hall, and Hall Laurie Calhoun.  Converts and additions to the church during these early years number into the hundreds.  By 1939, Joseph Avenue Church of Christ had a membership of about 450.

 

In the early 1970’s plans were made to relocate further north to the Madison-Bellshire area.  The congregation is now known as Kemper Heights Church of Christ and has worshiped on Tuckahoe Drive in Madison since 1974.  Mr. Wilkes’ pulpit is yet in use in the teaching and exhorting ministry of the Kemper Heights Church.