Here's something to think about William Hall's recent statement: "Frankly, I believe that the solutions that are being offered by Madison, and the 'Hills' congregations are quite shallow, and represent a kind of giving up."
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</blockquote></blockquote></blockquote>[color=#0000FF" size="3" face="times]Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2012 22:13:54 -0700
Subject: Re: Charlotte Ave., Nashville
Here are my memories, observations, and suppositions. I have sort of forgotten what I agreed to do, but forcing myself to go back was an interesting journey.
[color=#0000FF" size="3" face="times]From: Donnie Cruz
To: William Hall
Cc: Donnie Cruz ; "firstname.lastname@example.org"
Sent: Wednesday, June 6, 2012 12:20 AM
Subject: RE: Charlotte Ave., Nashville
I am patient; take your time as there is no deadline. LOL!!! I agree that overall there are similarities in factors and reasons among congregations that have experienced a significant decline in membership. Meanwhile, the havoc at Madison in 2001 was somewhat unique--the major changes (abrupt and gradual) directly impacted the sudden [practically "overnight"] split in the membership. Yes, hard facts are difficult. I was somewhat lucky in that someone from Madison was able to provide me with attendance stats declining right about the 2001 period (from 3000+ down to 2100 in a matter of months); after that I gathered stats data from the weekly worship guide.[/color]
<blockquote>[color=#0000FF" size="3" face="times]From: William Hall [email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, June 05, 2012 4:19 PM
To: Donnie Cruz
Subject: Re: Charlotte Ave., Nashville
I am thinking about this, at least. I do think that there are comparisons with the demise of Charlotte Ave. and numerous other congregations in and around downtown Nashville. I also think that the decline in membership in general is marginally related to the problems of Charlotte Ave., but that it is mostly another syndrome. I will try to give you ideas. Hard facts will be difficult. Anyway, I am not ignoring this.
<blockquote>[color=#0000FF" size="3" face="times]From: "firstname.lastname@example.org"
Sent: Friday, June 1, 2012 3:56 AM
Subject: Charlotte Ave., Nashville
Yes, please send me as much information as possible regarding Charlotte Ave. If you already have some prepared documentation that you can attach to this email, that would be good. If you choose to send info via e-mail, that's fine too.
I think it was about mid-2011 when the elders at Madison spoke to the congregation about the decline in membership among churches (various religious groups) in general, as well as among churches of Christ. They cited certain congregations that were no more, including the Charlotte Ave. congregation, and enumerated a number of factors [based on their research] that contributed to the decline and eventual death of certain churches. They're very concerned about Madison's future now, although I can't help but wonder as to why they give the impression as though the church havoc a decade ago did not occur. Of course, elders have come and gone in the last couple of decades.
Anyway, I'm really interested in your input. I'll review your notes and certainly discuss with you before I publicize anything, if at all.
My home e-mail address has been disabled for some 3 months now, hopefully, temporarily only. So, I'm using my email address at [...]. Let's also maintain the subject as "Charlotte Ave., Nashville." [....]
Thanks for your time and effort.
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[color=#000000" size="5" face="times]Growth and Decline Patterns of Congregations: Charlotte Ave., Nashville[/color]
[color=#000000" size="4" face="times]William T. Hall[/color]
[color=#000000" size="3.5" face="times]I am not directly educated in church matters nor am I a linguist, but rather a technocrat (chemist, chemical engineer). I leave the depths of the Greek to you guys and to my wife, who studied classical languages and ancient history. I was a high school extemporaneous speaker champion in Nashville, and I was recruited by Tom Hanvey to attend David Lipscomb College (maybe a scholarship in the preacher program), but the overall cost compared to U.T. or MTSU was too much, and besides, it was not what I wanted to do. Also be aware that I do not count myself as worthy of the eldership. I wish that I were, but I am not.
I was not a formal "member" of Charlotte Ave. after 1964. I went away to college (Knoxville) for a year, and then enlisted in the USAF for four years. I was discharged from the Air Force in Virginia at the end of October 1964, married, and we stayed there until 1966. We returned to Nashville, first living near Acklen Ave., then in the Vultee area, where we attended Una and then Vultee, and finally out on Sullivan's Ridge near Old Charlotte Road, although we attended Bellevue frequently. From there we moved to Cadiz, KY, and I worked in Hopkinsville. After we blew up the plant twice we relocated to Saudi Arabia, doing two tours for a total of five years. During one of the interims of working abroad we attended Vultee regularly and Belmont with some frequency because we had friends from our first job in Saudi Arabia who attended there. After five years in Arabia, we returned to Oak Ridge (New York Ave) for a few years while I worked and did graduate school, and we also attended Farragut some. Then we began cycling between the Ohio Valley and Florida, attending Huber Heights in Ohio, Griffin Road in the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area, and Belle Shoals in the Tampa area. My wife completed her PhD at Ohio State, and we moved here, to St. Mary's County, MD, where my wife is professor of history at St. Mary's College of Maryland (it's not Catholic).
Although my work resulted in a lot of traveling I always considered West Nashville home, and particularly when I would visit Nashville or Cheatham County alone on business or to visit my parents (now only Dad) I tried to maintain an observant association with Charlotte Ave. until I last visited about ten years ago. We go to Tennessee every year at Christmas time, but for not reason I quit visiting Charlotte Ave., usually attending at Crossville or Lantana near a time share that we use at Lake Tansi. I followed somewhat on the WEB and on visits to I have maintained an interest in the status of the Church in Nashville and other locales. Like many, I have run across a number of the "big" names although we never got well acquainted with any of them; Don Finto when he was at Una and Belmont Ave., Max Lucado in Florida, Rubel Shelly, etc.
West Nashville is divided down the middle by Charlotte Ave. running east to west (U.S. Hwy 70). In my youth, West Nashville started about 25th Ave. at Centennial Park and extended out to what we knew as Robertson Rd. / White Bridge Rd., and their feeder streets, with Croleywood right on the edge. West Nashville was divided at the east by the railroad and industrial areas. The subdivisions west of that were relatively new, Charlotte Park, and heading out towards West Meade, and we did not think of them as being "West Nashville." In general, with lots of exceptions, the areas south of Charlotte Ave. and west of 42nd Ave. were more prosperous and more or less more what we would have considered middle class at the time. More merchants, insurance salesmen, real estate people, small business persons, teachers and preachers lived on the south side and west of 42nd Ave., while on the north side there were more craftsmen and tradesmen, such as welders, roofers, etc. As I said, lots of exceptions. The north side beginning about 38th Ave. was already transitional. The area where Buck and I grew up, just south of Richland Park, was a showpiece area with large, three story houses, etc. I was raised by my grandparents in a house at 48th and Elkins that had been designed and built by an architect around the turn of the 20th Century. Buck's grandfather was the family physician for the area; Dr. Dozier delivered my dad, and at least one and I think two of my uncles. My grandfather was a petty crook around the Nashville bootlegging scene, and he did not attend anywhere; he considered himself a Methodist.
The congregations in this area that were demographically white included: Charlotte Ave., Park Ave., Westlawn Ct., 48th Ave., Pennsylvania Ave., James Ave., Richland Creek, and West Nashville Heights right on the edge. In an isolated pocket east of A&I (now Tennessee State) was the demographically white 25th Ave. congregation. West Nashville Heights was established in 1944, and relatively new, just beginning to grow, and James Ave., kind of conservative, was established in 1939 but as a substantial congregation it was relatively new in my youth. Park Ave., PA Ave., West Nashville Heights, and Charlotte Ave. were all "mainstream." I have attached a map that locates West Nashville congregations and their sort of natural drawing area.
In the summer, I used to attend 25th Ave. and Richland Creek with a friend from Savannah whose grandfather, Granville Cullum, was at that time a circuit preacher for conservative congregations. We also went to Dickson Rd. Granville and the Cullums had split from Charlotte Ave. in times back before my time over the selection of elders, and although he was a circuit rider for conservative congregations his family attended West End, and my friend attended Hillsboro after enrolling at Vandy. My friend's dad was an elder at University until it folded.
48th Ave. was a very small -- no Sunday School and I believe a one cup congregation that I think is now 49th Ave. and is larger than in my youth. Westlawn Ct. was also conservative. I never attended either.
Following are my memories and observations of Charlotte Ave. and the congregations in West Nashville. I am sure that you could find many who would controvert them.
As I said earlier, I was not officially a part of Charlotte Ave. during the time of its dissipation. However, I always considered it my home congregation so when we were attending Old Charlotte Road, Belleview, Vultee, etc., I attended often and maintained a watchful interest and some friendships. Then as my work took me on the road I sometimes visited Ch. Ave. when I was in town on vacation, between jobs, or other family matters. As a detached but interested observer the fate of the congregation was becoming obvious by about 1973. About that year, Jimmy Dorris who was then preacher at Park Avenue and an old family acquaintance held a meeting at Old Charlotte Road, where I and my family attended. In discussions with Jimmy, it was clear that Park Ave. was in trouble. In fact, the folks at Park Ave. had made it plain that people of color were not welcome, although he stated that he had told the eldership there that he would not join them in turning away souls. In our discussion, he thought that the problems had already enveloped Ch. Ave. to the point of death. Jimmy Dorris later preached my grandmother's funeral, my grandmother having given orders that Mack Craig was not to have any part in it because during her long illness Mack never visited her once. I believe Mack was at Vultee at the time, because we were attending there. Jimmy also preached my grandfather's funeral about two years later. I almost did not know who he was talking about. The last sermons that I heard at Charlotte Ave. were by Leonard Owens and Jasper Acuff, son of J.E. Acuff.
Some of the elders in my youth were Herbert Winkler, J.E. Acuff (who baptized me), a Bro. Wrather, Brown Vandiver, Maiden Dishner, and others. It was an interesting group. Brown Vandiver and J.E. Acuff were pretty straight laced, as they say, Bro. Dishner a genuinely nice human being, Herbert Winkler very conservative and a bit out of place (in fact I think he resigned in 1958 over some issues with DLC), and Bro. R.I. Wrather. Bro. Wrather lived at 47th and Elkins, and was controversial because he had only one child, Eva Jean, and his wife and daughter attended the Vine Street Christian Church. Interestingly, I think that Bro. Winkler, who wrote a book on the eldership, was a defender of Bro. Wrather. Eva Jean was a spinster who authored a two-volume biography of Alexander Campbell (which I have never read).
Frank Mayo was a deacon who had come to the attention of the elders and congregation because he did a very fine job coordinating vacation bible school in about 1956. He was one of the two remaining elders when Charlotte Ave. folded. We always had really effective and well attended vacation bible schools.
My Sunday School teachers included, among others, Willard Collins, Allen Pettus, a Bro. Sanders (well known), and occasionally Mack Craig. There was always a contingent coming over from DLC, and I had numerous teachers who were teachers or students there.
Parenthetically, my wife had brief contact with Mack about 3 years ago. She was writing a scholarly article on the translation of the Theodosian Code, and Mack translated part of it from Latin to English as a homework assignment while pursuing his M.A. If you are interested, you can see the kind of work that she does at this site (to see the article just click on "Contents"): [/color]
So what happened? I think that the old timers just assumed the congregation would always be there. They believed that new people would always be replacing the old. The Ford glass plant opened in 1956 eventually employing something like 3500 persons. Many of the people who got substantial union jobs at union wages left West Nashville and primarily moved towards Charlotte Park and Bellevue. This was a particular force on the north side of the Pike where more folks tended to be in the labor market. Also, many of my contemporaries moved west as they graduated from college; some of my contemporaries became deacons at Bellevue. On my side of the Pike the family moves were more upwardly mobile, and including West Meade, and moves south, towards and beyond Green Hills and Brentwood. James Vandiver, who was a bit older but also one of my teachers at Charlotte Ave., is the old folks minister at Harpeth Hills. There were a few other former Charlotte Ave. families at Vultee. And of course there was the natural dispersion, which I guess is how Buck wound up at Madison.
So all in all, what happened at Charlotte Avenue? We had plenty of attendance, an important history, and a rather vibrant program. It's what happens to many congregations: the congregation aged and turned inward. People left the neighborhood, and the leadership and congregants did not work to replace them with the new souls moving into the neighborhood. The replacements did not come, and eventually, there were few left. I believe the last time that I was there on Sunday evening there were no more than 45 present. As I write this, the Huber Heights congregation in Ohio is closing down and merging with the Vandalia, OH, congregation to form the Van-Huber Church of Christ for exactly the same reasons. New York Ave. in Oak Ridge got to deaths door before they woke up and revitalized themselves. Charlotte Ave. probably should have condensed to a congregation of 450-500 because, after all, the same number of houses and dwellings are still there. In fact, I believe that West Nashville Heights has had a fall off in attendance, as well.
The population of West Nashville did not decline, but somehow it got different. On the south side of the Pike home values were beginning to escalate in the 70s, and the people moving in seemed not to have much interest in church at all. On the north side there was an increasing Hispanic presence. East of 42nd Ave. the neighborhoods were increasingly Hispanic/black. I don't think any of the West Nashville religious groups have done particularly well. The Presbyterian Church that was formerly located at 4606 Charlotte Ave. is now some kind of community theatre. The West Nashville United Methodist Church is hanging on with a couple of female pastors. Park Ave. Baptist, at about 4306 Park Ave., seems to be doing well, with a completely Caucasian staff, but with a vigorous Hispanic outreach. Some of the other congregations of the Churches of Christ have stayed about the same: Pennsylvania Ave., James Ave., Richland Creek all seem about the same. 49th Ave. is actually a bit larger, I think. 25th Ave. moved the whole church building, and I believe that there is a demographically black congregation at around 40th Ave.
There was within the neighborhood a clear and lingering racism, and I have vague memories of hearing some of the older folk say something on the order of the negroes will never want to worship with us, anyway, and they will be more comfortable with their own kind. There was not much anticipation of the Hispanic influx, and I believe the attitudes toward the Hispanics would have been about the same as for blacks. Several Asian families moved into the Sylvan Park area, and as far as I can remember they were well received. Interestingly, the area now known as Sylvan Heights (the old Cat Town) up around 38th, the area known as Sylvan Park, and much of West Nashville proper has remained demonstrably white.
A pretty good description of the attitudes towards people of color can be found in FROM SEGREGATION TO INDEPENDENCE: AFRICAN AMERICANS IN CHURCHES OF CHRIST, Theodore Wesley Crawford, Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Vanderbilt University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY In Religion, August, 2008, Nashville, Tennessee.[/color]
My view of the collapse of congregations is simple: a weak eldership matched to indifferent congregants results in a loss of congregational unity and a loss of congregational purpose. In such cases a strong and vibrant preacher leads the congregation where it will go, and in other cases the congregation dissipates. In West Nashville the elders never came to grips with the change in demographics, and they never successfully determined how to evangelize and minister to the changing neighborhoods. Since there was not a history of egocentric preachers Charlotte Ave. and Park Ave. just dissipated. Had there been a vibrant preacher or preacher-elder who wanted to establish a mega-church, it might have gone in that direction. That seems to me to be really the issues with Madison and some of the others: the elders got indifferent and let the preachers take over. Of course, old Firery Irery put himself out there as pretty much in charge, but it generally seemed that he respected the eldership, and as I recall he became preacher/elder.
David R. Pharr wrote in The Spiritual Sword, 1997, that[/color]
[color=#000000" size="3.5" face="times]Back in 1975 when we were at Cadiz, KY, we got into a bit of a dust up with some who were always railing against "the liberals." I had never seen a liberal; Christ's teachings on forgiveness were certainly liberal; his teaching on "who is my neighbor" was certainly liberal for the time; Paul said that the Bereans gave of their liberality. We were actually concerned that Cadiz was not liberal enough. However, it does seem that that term, as it is used, infected our schools. I did not see it then, but do now. The infection carries to our preachers, I think even to some extent to those who come from training schools like Sunset. I know at least one graduate of Freed Hardeman who is on the edge of the change movement. In 1962 Reuel Lemmons editorialized (Firm Foundation 79 (17 April 1962) 242 "The Shifting Current") that a major shift was under way among Churches of Christ. While the past decade had been a struggle over institutionalism with the right, the next decade, he predicted, would be a "battle" with the "liberal left." The immediate cause of his editorial was a brotherhoodwide controversy over whether one should preach "the man or the plan." Lemmons was disturbed by younger preachers who were saying "I used to preach 'faith in a plan'; but now I preach 'faith in a Person-not faith in a plan.'" He laid the blame for this shift at the feet of Christian college professors.[color=#000000" size="3" face="times]In our own time, some congregations which once were celebrated for their faithfulness and zeal now appear to have lost their way, having moved away from sound doctrine into compromising positions and practices. Claiming a new level of spirituality, whether feigned or misconceived, they have gone beyond the authority of scripture. On the other hand, congregations may claim loyalty for the truth, but be lacking in passion for the Lord and in compassion for others. While holding firm to certain tenets, including things which are certainly important, their love for God and for others may be more in words than in heart and deeds (cf. I Jn. 3:18). The latter is exemplified in the church at Ephesus. They had a great history. They tolerated no form of evil and exposed false apostles. Who could doubt their soundness? "Nevertheless I have somewhat ought against thee, because thou hast left thy first love" (v.4).[/color]
(http://oneinjesus.info/2008/02/the-futu ... ackground/ )
There was a time when the "plan" was considered "Tennessee" and "grace" was considered Texas. I guess that became the plan vs. the man. I always thought it silly because the elements of the plan included the man and grace, but I have had people tell me that they were converted "to a plan." I consider that baptism without an understanding of the faith and grace, and the man behind it, nothing more than getting wet. I have concluded that specific works like baptism must show forth our faith, and elsewise we are relying on the deed itself to convey effect, which is Catholic doctrine, and I would need a priest to make sure that I do it correctly.
But the plan seems kind of dry and lifeless, though it is the understanding it lacks spirit unless we see the spirit in belief, repentance, confession, etc. I know many congregations that "claim loyalty for the truth," but which are "lacking in passion for the Lord and in compassion for others." Such congregations have a difficult time competing for the young, and almost all aging congregations sooner or later fall into this category.
But when congregations become egocentric they then tend to begin "claiming a new level of spirituality" and move "away from sound doctrine into compromising positions and practices." How do notable preachers compete for an audience against a church that has a rock and roll band, entertainment groups, and I'm O.K. you're O.K. belief systems?
This is from Wikipedia about Rubel Shelly:[/color]
[color=#000000" size="3.5" face="times]This article acknowledges the egocentric nature of Rubel Shelly, although that was not its intent. Paul, although prominent and he recognized other prominent evangelists, considered prominence a thing not to be desired, else divisions follow.[color=#000000" size="3" face="times]Because Churches of Christ are strongly congregational, there are only a few ways to rise to prominence: publications, lectureships, holding the pulpit of a large congregation, and by outside recognition. Rubel Shelly has written many influential books, cited by others in the Restoration Movement, and he routinely appears at lectureships sponsored by Universities and colleges affiliated with the Church of Christ. Shelly has also been the preacher at one of the larger, more affluent churches for many years (Woodmont Hills Church of Christ in Nashville, Tennessee). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubel_Shelly [/color]
Often I will see something that refers to the Church of Christ of the 1950s. Well, in the 50s we were not having an identity crisis. I believe that when Time Magazine wrote about the "Cambellites are Coming" in 1961, regarding the "exodus" to Bayshore, N.J., we were the fastest growing religious group in the country. The Christian Chronicle reports 526 fewer churches and 78,436 fewer people in the pews in 2009 than just six years prior in 2003. The most telling statistic is a 7-percent drop in the total number of children in Churches of Christ. The article is worth reading.
http://www.christianchronicle.org/artic ... by_decline
Many of the lost congregations seem to have been rural congregations where, like Charlotte Ave., they got old, died, and no one came to replace. But others seem to be holding on. As a young teenager I attended dinner on the grounds with my friend and his grandparents at South Harpeth, and it is still there. Cadiz is still there.
I confess that I have three sons, none of whom have remained faithful. Two do not attend any church at all, and the youngest finds that churches of Christ are not appealing to his wife and family, who is a former Catholic. They attend more socially active independent evangelical churches where there are lots of activities for their age groups and for their children's age groups. They want to go to church, but "sound doctrine" is not a part of their thinking. A Baylor Survey of Religion report claims non-denominational evangelical churches are the fastest growing Protestant churches in America. Many such churches are or approach charismatic, or they offer a feel-good prosperity gospel, and they are attracting younger, vibrant crowds who feel like they want to go to church but they do not necessarily want to believe anything specific. Many of these churches seem to have hidden links to the Assembly of God or to Oral Roberts. The fastest growing organized religious groups include the Mormons and the Seventh Day Adventists, and the Moslems.
Perhaps the Bellevue Community Church vs. the Bellevue Church of Christ is a good example. Our congregation seems to be still doing well. But in a short time after its founding the Bellevue Community Church was triple in size. Some of the founding members were former members of Charlotte Ave. Of course, the Bellevue Community Church has had its own egocentric "pastor" problem.
The congregation that we attend here has both good and bad. The good is that we have young families with babies popping out all over the place. However, there is no junior high or senior high class at all right now: perhaps only a total of three. Pray that we teach these babies. We have four elders. One is very weak in scripture, and he does not see the uniqueness of the Church of Christ at all, feels that instrumental music is o.k., and does not see what we "have against the Baptists." He is a fine man and he works hard for the Church, and for political reasons we need him to be an elder, but he needs levening by the others. Another is looking forward to his move to Atlanta after the first of the year where he will attend a change movement congregation. The other two are fine men, and seem to be worthy elders. We are losing members to a community church in the same fight as the rest of the brotherhood. The congregation as a whole just comes and sits but the young adult group is showing us a thing or two. Maybe we just skipped a generation, and as Micah said, we will "rise up."
Also, I believe that a contributing factor to our losses is that Sunday School and midweek Bible school have been weakened. Perhaps during my time too much time was spent on doctrine and not enough time on religion, but I did learn the Bible and I did learn the doctrine, and I learned good history, too, with good understanding. We usually used one of the Gospel Advocate Sunday School books, which were kind of dry and unexciting, but we were encouraged to do a new memory verse each week, and we discussed the weeks lesson in class. As for doctrine, in fact, Mack Craig had a rotation of sermons that he preached about every 2 ½ years, and one was a sermon on why we do not use instrumental music. I have copied that sermon a time or two. Not only did I learn the doctrine, I and my contemporaries were taught how to read. On Wednesday evening a young person typically read a WHOLE chapter at a time. Somehow, my sons never learned the doctrine the reasons why we do things the way we do and many of the members of my current congregation do not know why we do things the way we do. Now, it seems un-P.C. to teach it to our young people (and nobody will sit through the reading of a WHOLE chapter). If one does not understand the reasons then there are no differences to understand. They might just about as well be dancing naked around a bon fire at the full moon, in a circle.
I believe that there have been some academic papers written and possibly published that have analyzed the growth and decline patterns of congregations, including specifically congregations of the Churches of Christ. I have looked to see if I could locate any online, but I did not have success. Perhaps we should get up some kind of grant for a young PhD student to write a dissertation on the declining membership in the Churches of Christ.