Evangelist James A. Harding was already a well-known and much sought-after evangelist among Churches of Christ when he held a tent meeting at the corner of Foster and Second Streets in 1889. Yet, lasting eight weeks, that meeting is regarded as his longest and is arguably, with 115 responses, one of his more successful.
Although the fertile riverside soil had been broken by earlier preaching and mission efforts by evangelists among Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, the Harding meeting provided the nurture and watering necessary to establish a new and immediately thriving congregation. Ordered under an eldership, and taught by preaching of J. C. McQuiddy, the Foster Street Christian Church erected a new brick building where Harding had pitched his tent. McQuiddy was at the time Office Editor and Business Manager of the Gospel Advocate and later would be founder of Nashville’s McQuiddy Printing Company, member of the Boards of Directors of the Nashville Bible School and the Tennessee Children’s Home in Columbia. He divided his time between Foster Street and another new congregation at Tenth and Woodland (later known as the Russell Street Church of Christ).
By 1890 the congregation had over 200 members and was clearly an outward-focused church. By 1905 they were instrumental in planting a new congregation on Joseph Avenue at Scott Street (the Joseph Avenue Church of Christ) and again in 1909 on Jones Avenue at Cherokee Avenue (later the Lischey Avenue Church of Christ). The congregation in 1910 hosted pioneer Church of Christ missionary, James H. McCaleb, for a series of lectures about his work in Japan. By 1910 the congregation was known as Foster Street Church of Christ to differentiate itself from Christian Churches who used instrumental music and conducted mission work through organized missionary societies.
Having outgrown their building, the congregation relocated to the corner of Grace Avenue and North Third Street in October 1926. Built to accommodate 1000 worshippers, the new church was filled to capacity the first Sunday. At this time they changed their name to Grace Avenue Church of Christ. By the time this building was finished Henry Leo Boles had for a decade preached the first Sunday of each month for Foster Street congregation; for twenty years yet he would continue to do so at Grace and Third.
When Grace Avenue decided to disband in 1977, true to their heritage, they looked outward and sent their remaining members to over 20 area Churches of Christ to build up the work in those congregations.
Mac is Special Collections Librarian and Archivist at Abilene Christian University.