We Do Not Lose Heart: A Homecoming Sermon for Lindsley Avenue Church, October 14, 2007

One of the signal honors of my life was receiving an invitation to preach at the 120th Anniversary Homecoming for Lindsley Avenue Church of Christ in Nashville in October 2007. I blogged about it then, and promised to upload my sermon. I do not remember why I did not upload it, but I did not. I searched, and I found it and I uploaded it to the Spoken Word page.

In 2007 I was freshly out of a deep dive into homiletics. I utilized Paul Scott Wilson’s ‘four-page‘ method to bring a word to the church. I wrestled with what to say. After I settled on a text from 2 Corinthians 4, Wilson’s heuristic gave me a way to approach how to say it. His model helped me frame the sermon. I think the sermon holds up well. I don’t think I could preach it any better today than I did then. I would not change anything except to tighten the language.

The manuscript I scanned and uploaded is the copy I took into the pulpit. It bears a few marks I inserted to help me remember where to place emphasis. I did not read it; but I preached it as written. No recording was made, so you will have to supply emphasis. Looks for the marks and you will be able to get close.

If asked how to preach an anniversary sermon or a homecoming sermon, this is what I could offer. If asked how to incorporate very local congregational history into a sermon, this is how I did it, once. Depending on the task at hand, you could do this very differently. In this case, my charge was to look as much forward as backward. In this case, I was preaching to a church very much at the margins of conventional Nashville Church of Christ culture. In this case, as is true in every case if you look closely and honestly enough, there was a great deal to discourage you. A great deal. But the hope of the gospel surpasses our disappointments. Thus the sermon.

With Quiet Diligence: How Claude Elbert Spencer Formed an Archival Tradition in the ­Stone-Campbell Movement

I published a chapter in The Faithful Librarian: Essays on Christianity in the Profession. (McFarland and Company, 2019) in which I provide for the first time a critical, source based account of Claude Spencer’s career and contribution to archival sensitivity in the Stone-Campbell Movement.  Below are the opening and closing paragraphs of the chapter:

As the pioneering archivist of the Restoration Movement or Stone-Campbell Movement, comprising the Christian Churches, Churches of Christ, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Claude Elbert Spencer (1898-1979) came onto the scene during the emergence and professionalization of library study and the concomitant higher expectation of library work in the academy; he possessed a native impulse and a unique vocational imperative to collect history; and finally he owned a theological subjunctive to embrace the breadth of Stone-Campbell material in a single archive.  This essay narrates the contours of his life’s story and work as it relates to the formation of the archive he conceived.  Further, it attends to the values and virtues that compelled his collecting and guided his service.  Spencer’s bibliographic work was exemplary and his archival work was peerless in his denomination. The story behind this work and the values that undergird it invite contemplation by those who would serve as archivists in denominational settings.


It is remarkable that a boy who learned to read at age nine would five years later become de facto librarian of his high school, and five years after that lead the library at his college in exchange for tuition, room and board.  It is remarkable that librarian who wouldn’t have known a Disciple book if it hit him in the head would compile a bibliography so authoritative it remains unsurpassed after seventy years.  It is remarkable that he formed a collegial society to serve the academy and the congregation, the graduate seminar and the Sunday school roundtable.  It is remarkable that he maintained an unrelenting commitment to charity and equal representation in collecting scope in the face of bitter intramural disputes over bureaucracy the very existence of which fractured the ecclesial fellowship he loved and served the entirety of his career.  It is remarkable that he recognized the need for, and advocated for needed research topics that were years ahead of their time.  It is remarkable that though he held no degree beyond the ars baccalaureus in education, no less than 84 master’s theses and doctoral dissertations credit his advice, counsel, and assistance.*  It is remarkable that he attained expertise with minimal formal coursework and professional training, but so mastered ‘library economy’ and was so productive in keeping up a demanding schedule, that the upon his retirement he was replaced by two and one-half full-time equivalents with graduate degrees in history, library science, and theology.

Spencer’s legacy survives in the several bibliographic works he authored, in the catalog records he generated, in the finding aids he assembled, and in the indexes he compiled.  His legacy survives among the holdings of Disciples of Christ Historical Society, of which he was visionary and architect.  His legacy endures in the community of librarians, archivists, historians, students and independent scholars he formed.  His legacy endures in the scholarship he facilitated by virtue of his quiet diligence in collecting, organizing, describing, preserving, and advocacy for print and archival materials of the Stone-Campbell heritage, consisting of the Christian Churches, the Churches of Christ, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and related groups.

The chapter was a sheer pleasure to research and write.  Stone-Campbell historical scholarship came into its own because of Claude Spencer.  First he raised awareness of its need, articulated that vision in plain terms, and then set about sourcing everything a scholar would need to write.  Look at the footnotes of the historical works published by or about anything Stone-Campbell since World War 2.  Look hard enough, and follow the references long enough, and you will find precious few that do not cite materials he gathered, inspired others to gather, or quote those who deal with those primary sources.  I think he surpasses all historians as the most significant single figure who has contributed to ‘Restoration history.’

*– I have since located two additional theses, for a total of 86.

Show and Tell: A Mini-Exhibit in Stone-Campbell Hymnody…reblogged from ACU Special Collections

We had a special treat a few days ago when several participants in the TX Singing School visited Special Collections for a tour.  In response to their request, I pulled several hymnals and related artifacts for a brief show and tell.  We thought you’d like to see the pictures.

Elias Smith, A Collection of Hymns, for the Use of Christians. Boston: Manning and Loring [1804].

Elias Smith, A Collection of Hymns, 1804

more at ACU Special Collections blog here.

Issue of Christian History Magazine on Stone-Campbell Movement forthcoming

Christian History Magazine will release in September an issue devoted to the Stone-Campbell Movement.  Doug Foster and Richard Hughes collaborated as guest editors to assemble the first issue of CHM dedicated to the Restoration Movement.  About 20 years ago Barton Stone and Cane Ridge made an appearance in issue 45 on Camp Meetings & Circuit Riders…which you can download for free as a PDF here.  Judging from past issues, this installment will be a richly illustrated and accessible overview for the average reader who has some knowledge of and a keen interest in Christian history.  If you plan to teach Restoration history, consider ordering a bundle for distribution to your class; see CHM_BulkPricing for details.  An image from this blog and a small contribution from me even made their way into the issue!

7 December 1939 Gospel Advocate: The Nashville Special

7 December 1939 Gospel Advocate “Nashville Special”

This special issue of Gospel Advocate highlights with historical sketches and photographs several dozen Churches of Christ in Nashville, Tennessee, the City of David (Lipscomb).  In view of an upcoming lecture at Lipscomb University (I’m co-presenting with Christopher Cotten, John Mark Hicks and Jeremy Sweets), this will be the first of several daily posts of the photographs from that issue.  From now until the end of June I will post one photo daily.  Look for the portraits of Fall, Fanning, Sewell, McQuiddy and Harding tomorrow and the meetinghouses in alphabetical order beginning 23 May until 30 June 2013, d.v. …. You are invited to our sessions Monday July 1 and Tuesday July 2.  See the Summer Celebration schedule for time and place. Please come, I’d like to meet and talk with you.

Front Cover

Content Summary

[B. C. Goodpasture], “How Special Was Prepared”, page 1166:

In collecting the material for the special number of the Gospel Advocate we have sought a short history and a picture of the meetinghouse of every congregation in what might be called the Nashville district.  There are some congregations not within the city limits which have been so vitally related to the work in the city that it was thought proper to include them.  To this end each congregation was asked by telephone or letter to supply a sketch of its work and a good picture of its meetinghouse.  We are grateful that most of the congregations complied with our request, but regret that some did not.  Except where otherwise stated, we have used only the material that was sent in to us.  Where the type of meetinghouse and of picture permitted, the cuts are uniform in size.—EDITOR.


H. Leo Boles, “General History of the Church in Nashville,” 1146-1148.  Included in this brief essay are portraits of Philip Slater Fall, Tolbert Fanning, Elisha Granville Sewell, Jephthah Clayton McQuiddy and James Alexander Harding.  David Lipscomb’s portrait graces the front cover.  The bulk of the issue are the sketches and photos of the congregations and their meetinghouses.  Boles’ task is to introduce the issue with a lead-off broad historical resume.

Rear Cover

List of Congregations, pages 1148-1167

Listed below, in the order of appearance, are the congregations featured; those without an accompanying photograph marked with an asterisk [*].  I cannot discern an organizing principle, if there was one, governing the listing of the congregations.  For their relative locations consult the map on the back cover.

Lindsley Avenue Church

Twelfth Avenue Church

Old Hickory Church

Charlotte Avenue Church

Grandview Heights Church

Riverside Drive Church

Shelby Avenue Church

Joseph Avenue Church

Grace Avenue Church

Park Avenue Church

Park Circle Church

Lawrence Avenue Church

Central Church

David Lipscomb College Church

Acklen Avenue Church

Chapel Avenue Church

Eleventh Street Church

Reid Avenue Church

Cedar Grove Church

Trinity Lane Church

Fairview Church

Russell Street Church

Donelson Church

Third and Taylor Church

Mead’s Chapel Church

Highland Avenue Church

Fifth Street Church

Seventh Avenue Church

Hillsboro Church

Madison Church

Radnor Church

Whites Creek Church

Fanning School and Church

Lischey Avenue Church

Belmont Church

Waverly-Belmont Church

New Shops Church*

Neely’s Bend Church*


W. E. Brightwell, “Record Not Complete”, pages 1166-1167:

“Some congregations failed to provide a picture of their building; some prepared something, but there was a slip-up in delivery.”  Brightwell briefly recalls details about Green Street, Eighth Street [Eight Avenue, North], Jo Johnston, Twenty-Second Avenue, Otter Creek, and Reid Avenue.  Within Brightwell’s note are photographs of the Home for the Aged (overseen by the Chapel Avenue Church), Jackson Park Church and Rains Avenue Church.  He closes by asking, “What became of the sketches for Jackson Park and Rains Avenue congregations?  Gorman Avenue, Richland Creek, Edenwold, Fourth Avenue, South, Pennsylvania Avenue, Ivy Point, Dickerson Road, and possibly others within the area of Greater Nashville, failed to report, or something happened that their report did not arrive in time.”

Given Brightwell’s note, I thought it worthwhile to discern which congregations were absent.  It became readily apparent that there was no mention, at all, of any African-American congregation or preacher in the issue.  There is a list of six “Colored Churches” on the rear-cover map.

If George Philip Bowser’s 1942 directory is any indication, Nashville was as much “Jerusalem” for African-American churches of Christ as it was for whites.  In 1942 Nashville claimed six black Churches of Christ, the same as are listed on the rear cover of this ‘Nashville Special.’  No other city in America at that time, known to Bowser at least, had as many black congregations or as many members among them.  Were Bowser to describe these congregations, their establishment and growth and the great men and women who built and nurtured them, he might use Henry Leo Boles’ words which opens this ‘Nashville Special’: “Nashville, Tenn., has been called the modern Jerusalem. There are more churches of Christ in this city than in any other city of the world.  The church in Nashville, like the church in Jerusalem, had a small beginning, but it has grown to great proportions.”  If not, at least his data would support the claim nonetheless.

The rear cover, with map, lists sixty-five congregations, fifty-nine [white] and six “colored.”


The congregations listed below have neither photo nor sketch in the issue proper:

Bells Bend

Dickerson Road


Eighth Avenue

Fourth Avenue

Gorman Avenue

Green Street

Jo Johnston

Pennsylvania Avenue

Richland Creek

Rural Hill

Twenty-Second Avenue

Watkins Chapel

Buford’s Chapel [this is an earlier name for Whites Creek church listed above]

Neely’s Bend

Pennington’s Bend

Woodson Chapel



Otter Creek

Ivy Point

Fourteenth and Jackson

Twenty-Sixth and Jefferson

Sixth and Ramsey

Fairfield and Green

South Hill



Neither on this map nor inside are:

South Harpeth


Hill’s Chapel


Burnette’s Chapel


Smith Springs


Pleasant Hill

Little Marrowbone

Chapel Hill (possibly a variant name for Little Marrowbone)


All of these are in Davidson County, reasonably within the bounds of Goodpasture’s “Nashville district” or Brightwell’s “Greater Nashville.”

The 1939 City Directory lists a Sanctified Church of Christ at 408 16th Avenue, North and a Metropolitan Church of Christ on East Hill as a ‘Colored’ congregation.  The same directory lists Emanuel Church of Christ which I have confirmed is not a Stone-Campbell congregation.  Sanctified is entirely new to me; there is an outside chance it could be the predecessor to the Fifteenth Avenue, North congregation (est. 1955 according to the 2012 Churches of Christ in the United States).  If so then it is a black congregation…15th Ave is a plant from Jefferson or Jackson Street.  Metropolitan Church is likewise new to me.


Remember, check back daily for a new photograph.  Comments are welcome for memories, suggestions, etc.  Should you like to contact me privately, do so at   icekm [at] aol [dot] com.  Should you have or know someone who has photographs, directories, bulletins or other paper from any of these congregations, please contact me.

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.)

The Reynoldsburg Genizah

The 19th century discoveries in the genizah (storage place, preservation) of a Cairo synagogue expanded research vistas in medieval Jewish studies, including the text and tradition of the Hebrew Bible.  Protocol for the disposal of worn-out scrolls and like documents was burial; until then they were stored in the genizah at the synagogue. A close parallel for Christian congregants is the cubby hole under the pulpit or the rooms adjacent to the baptistery or the closet in the church office or any like place that attracts wonderful clutter.  The genizah at Cairo held nearly 300,000 fragments spanning the thousand years from 800-1800. Quite a find.

Upon the death of McGarvey C. Ice in January 1999 my Ice clan cleaned out the farm at 5775 Refugee Road, Columbus, O.  When the Ice’s moved in, in the 1930’s, they were nine miles out from Columbus city limits.  The forty-acre farm was in the village of Brice, which was close to the town of Reynoldsburg, which was close to the city of Columbus.  For the next sixty-five years the city accumulated around them as three generations of stuff accumulated throughout the home and outbuildings.

Great-grandad, K. C. Ice, was a poor doctor.  Well check that, all indications are that he was a good physician, but he never was wealthy.   Born in a log cabin in West Virginia, he put himself through high school and three colleges, medical school included.  He served poor rural farmers in West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and across Ohio.  He also preached some, wrote an occasional letter to the editor, and took the church papers. I know he subscribed to the major periodicals across the Stone-Campbell spectrum: Christian-Evangelist on the left, Octographic Review and Firm Foundation on the right, with Christian Standard, Christian Leader, Word and Work, Restoration Herald and Gospel Advocate in the broad middle…at least I know of these…knowing him there were likely others.   He graduated from Hiram and Bethany Colleges, and sent his children to Christian Normal Institute in Grayson, Ky, to Harding College in Morrilton, Arkansas, and to Freed-Hardeman College in Henderson, Tennessee.  He read Blue and White from Johnson Bible College and occasionally items from Harding College and David Lipscomb College.

Grandad was a college professor.  He taught high school, coached some, worked for the WPA during the war, and even spent a Great Depression summer as a circus clown when teachers were not paid in the summer months. For thirty-three years of his career he taught at Franklin University in downtown Columbus.  By retirement as Head of the Dept of Engineering Drawing, he taught courses in everything from chemistry and physics to engineering drawing and drafting to radio, televsion and even refrigeration.  As scientific and analytical as he was, he was an artist (drawing), sculptor (clay) and musician (coronet and violin).  He also preached some for a small congregation in Reynoldsburg.  And he, too, read the church papers…a few here and there, but always, every time, cover to cover, did he read Christian Standard and Word and Work. He published an occasional article in the Ohio Valley regional paper the Bible Herald.  Frugal, he and Grandma grew vegetables and canned them, repaired what broke, then repaired it again, and, of course, didn’t throw anything away.  At least not anything worth anything and most certainly nary a thing that down the road might have some use sometime, somewhere, for some reason.

All that to say, cleaning out the home was obviously bittersweet.  But what a treasure trove of paper.  Laura and I filled a steamer trunk full of paper from the barn and home.  Sermon manuscripts and outlines, all handwritten by my great-grandfather and grandfather.  Back issues of Christian Standard, Gospel Advocate, Apostolic Times (the one in Nashville) and Firm Foundation.  Shoe boxes of tracts and leaflets.  Pounds of clippings from all of the above.  The mice got to quite a bit of K. C. Ice’s clippings from the church papers.  Of course, they were put out in the loft in the barn.  Not thrown away or buried, not burned, just put aside in the genizah.  I sifted pounds of paper fragments no larger than a nickel or quarter.  Most all of it highly acidic, much of it nearly pulverized upon my touch.  I went through it all and saved all I could possibly reconstruct.  The rest may still sit in that loft for all I know.

My discovery of a cache of Restoration paper in the Reynoldsburg genizah opened new vistas for understanding of my family history.  When Grandad died, and Grandma moved in with an aunt and uncle, I was in my first year of graduate school at Lipscomb.  Just 23 years old.   Over the last dozen years I have sorted, read, re-read, re-read and tried to absorb them.  I knew then that they were special; but their worth grows on me.  In the course of five years’ archival work I corresponded weekly with people who knew nothing, or next to nothing, about their ancestors or their congregation.  I spent my days trying to fill in the gaps for them.  Professionally and personally,  I found it tremendously rewarding.  It broadened and deepened my appreciation of what I have available to me; in a pointed way, helped me realize how fortunate I am to simply have something that belonged to an ancestor.  However, like any collection, it raises some questions as it answers others.  I have a small, dark foggy window into KC Ice’s mind.  I am so thankful for what I have; I am even thankful for the questions, the mysteries, the unknowns.

So, I’d like to scan some of these papers, post them to this blog, and think out loud about them.  It is really an exercise for me to work through my family history. An online platform such as this will make my work accessible to genealogists and other researchers.  It will also make my collection available to my Ice relatives; perhaps it might help them as well.  If you will indulge my forays into the genizah, I will occasionally post items from it to this blog.

South Harpeth Church of Christ, Davidson County, Tennessee

Gordon H. Turner’s article from the 21 May 1950 Nashville Tennessean, page 9 B:


More extensive research and data collection since 1950 reveal that South Harpeth is not the second oldest congregation among Churches of Christ, although it is among the oldest. Excluding Christian Churches and Disciples (among which there are several equally old congregations) the 2009 edition of Churches of Christ in the United States has these congregations older than South Harpeth:

Parksville Christian Church, Parksville, KY, 1796
Pleasant Hill Church of Christ, Edmonton, KY, 1800c
Dry Fork Church of Christ, Glasgow, KY, 1800c
Milburn Church of Christ, Milburn, KY, 1800c
56th Street Church of Christ, Philadelphia, PA, 1800c
Kelton Church of Christ, West Grove, PA, 1800c
Corders Crossroads Church of Christ, Kelso, TN, 1800c
Pleasant Ridge Church of Christ, Pleasant Ridge, TN, 1800c
Rhome Church of Christ, Rhome, TX, 1800c
Saint Jo Church of Christ, Saint Jo, TX, 1800c
Sancho Church of Christ, Hundred, WV, 1800c
Rock Springs Church of Christ, Celina, TN, 1805
Rocky Springs Church of Christ, Bridgeport, AL, 1807
Wilson Hill Church of Christ, Lewisburg, TN, 1811
Bethlehem Church of Christ, Lebanon, TN, 1812
South Harpeth Church of Christ, Nashville, TN, 1812

There are many others as you move into the 1820’s.  Yet Gordon Turner was not too far off. South Harpeth is tied with Bethlehem as the fifth oldest Church of Christ still meeting in Tennessee.  There are old, old Disciples congregations (dating back to the 1790’s-1810’s) still meeting as congregations of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  The same is true for Christian Churches/Churches of Christ.  Additionally, there are countless congregations now closed which were established very early in the 19th century.  In the 19th century the lines of division which obtain today were still in a process of formation.  Nonetheless, 200 years of continuous existence is uncommon.  The 2009 directory has the total number of Churches of Christ congregations at 12,963 yet only 23 of those were established prior to 1820.

South Harpeth is the oldest active congregation congregation in Davidson County; furthermore, my research-thus far-leads me to the conclusion that it was the first one established in Davidson County.

By the late 1820’s Nashville’s Baptist Church of Jesus Christ, later the Church Street Christian Church, became arguably the most influential Restoration congregation in Middle Tennessee, if not the state, and perhaps the South.  That congregation exists today as Vine Street Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Belle Meade.  But Vine Street is not the oldest…that honor goes to the band of Christians meeting in the little red brick meetinghouse in far southwest Davidson County.  On 20 May 2012 they will celebrate 200 years of ministry.  I will present some reflections on their history at the Sunday School assembly.

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.

Nashville Churches of Christ History Group on Facebook

Nashville Churches of Christ History group is open to anyone interested in the Stone-Campbell movement in Nashville and Davidson County.  Here is the first post I made a few days ago:

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 1820’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.

The group is open to all.  Help spread the word and generate interest.