Anyone who has called Nashville home in the past several years remembers two major natural disasters: the May 2010 flood and the April 1998 tornado.  The flood is still fresh in our minds each time we have heavy rain; in some places, if you know where to look, you can still see debris.  On April 16, 1998 tornadoes spun all over middle TN, all day.  I rose early that Thursday morning to the sound of weather alerts on the radio (650 AM of course).  The alerts were a constant all day.

I lived upstairs at Central Church downtown.  I wove quite a path through alleys and at least three wrong-ways on one-way streets to get home that night.  It was surreal: no power, no lights save for police and fire vehicles and, most of all, it was so scary-quiet.  Glass shards, leaves, fiberglass insulation, paper, wood, mud, water…it was all mixed thoroughly and plastered liberally across the whole of downtown.  East Nashville was heavily hit, which brings me to this clip:

This clip is an excerpt from a very well-done Nashville Public Television production on local religious architecture. It, and an accompanying book, are worth the investment for Nashvillians who pass these buildings each day. For anyone interested in church architecture Designed for Worship proves itself a fine model of how substantive architectural discussion can be presented in an accessible form all the while maintaining high standards of aesthetic and editorial excellence.

The clip below explores how historic church architecture lives with its community. Focusing mainly on St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in East Nashville, they weave a compelling narrative of how hope emerged from displacement and of how new life replaced acute loss.

Look for the Russell Street Church of Christ to make a brief appearance at 3:01 and 3:15.  This tornado more or less ended Russell Street’s congregational life.  Never able to financially recover, they closed a short while later, thereby ending almost 110 years of ministry on Russell Street.

Seventeenth Street Christian Church

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Seventeenth Street Church is in East Nashville…17 blocks east of the river to be exact…and quite close to Shelby Park.  The building is about 2 blocks north of where Shelby Avenue Church of Christ met.  Organized in 1896, the congregation first met in a white frame building of which I cannot find any photograph.  Micah Stirling Combs was the first minister, serving around 1898.  This brick building was built in 1908-1909 when J. T. McKissick was minister; additional classroom space came in 1950 (notice the boxy addition to the rear).  Its membership in the middle 1950’s was about 350.  The congregation relocated to Madison in the later 1960’s and is now known as Madison Christian Church.  Madison is one of a handful of Independent Christian Churches in Nashville (Madison, Lakeshore and Aspen Grove, which was formerly First Christian).  There were a couple others, but in Nashville and the Middle TN area they are few and far between.  In East Nashville, Seventeenth Street, as an Independent-leaning congregation, sort of fell between the Disciples-leaning Eastwood Christian Church (result of a merger between Eastland and Woodland Street Christian Churches) and the dozen acapella congregations.  Those dozen or more acapella congregations were not all of the same mind, either.  Furthermore, there aren’t a dozen acapella congregations in East Nashville anymore, but perhaps more on that later.