These words from the 1880s were written by a man who lived in this Nashville house. They describe John Berry McFerrin’s experience with a non-traditional style church meeting as a young man in the 1830s. He wrote:
“The meetings were greatly blessed. We read the Scriptures, we sang, we prayed, we spoke often one to another, and the Lord listened and heard. Here I heard much of Christian experience, and learned to understand the wants of others. Here I learned to give words of exhortation and comfort, and here I learned to appreciate the trials and temptations connected with the life of a Christian. Fifty years have passed and the precious seasons that I enjoyed then are still fresh in my memory. I regard class meetings as among the greatest providential means of grace ever instituted in the church. They did much to keep me in the path, and gave me many encouragements through hearing the experience of older and wiser Christians than myself. Class meeting is about the best theological school ever organized. It was a sad day when it declined in the church; and I hope and pray the time may come when it will be revived in the church.”
The house above was torn down in the 1950s. But the dream of participatory church survived. A few years after the house was torn down, The Salvation Army built a chapel across the street from where the house had stood.
In 2008, the pews and the pulpit were moved out of that chapel and replaced with chairs set in a U-shape. Sunday meetings were begun there based on open participation and sharing rather than on a one-man sermon. The meetings fit the description written by John Berry McFerrin, however, his words weren’t discovered by the church until 2012.
How is it that McFerrin’s vision for open participation to be restored to the church was fulfilled across the street from where he lived when he wrote down his vision about 120 years earlier?
Come see McFerrin’s vision in action every Sunday morning at The Salvation Army Berry Street, 225 Berry St., Nashville, TN 37207 on Sunday mornings at 10:45.
Read more in my book: Beyond Church — An Invitation To Experience The Lost Word Of The Bible, available at Amazon.