Lindenwood Christian Church – Memphis Magazine


Dear Vance: Was the Lindenwood Christian Church formed when two other churches – one named Linden, the other named Wood – merged in the 1930s? — KG, Memphis.

Dear KG: I’m half sorry to say the answer is no, but only half because the Linden part is believable, and I’ll get to that shortly. But I wanted to say that I have been asked this question before, but with a variation: “Was Lindenwood named after an older church, whose pastor was named Wood?” And the answer to that is also: No.

“It’s a myth that’s been around for years and keeps repeating itself,” says Reverend Geoffrey Mitchell, senior minister at Lindenwood Christian Church, the modern complex at Union and East Parkway. “It just doesn’t seem possible to stop him.”

Well, I’ll take the blame. In our April 2014 issue, I wrote about Trent Wood, the popular WMC-TV children’s show host Zoo Looney. In my rambling pay-per-word style, I mentioned that Trent was the eldest son of the Reverend Howard Thomas Wood, the pastor of Linden Avenue Christian Church. So far, so good. But then I wrote: “When [his] The church moved to Union and East Parkway, the congregation decided to honor their beloved pastor by incorporating his name into the new church: Lindenwood.

They did no such thing. But no one corrected me. Nobody suggested I fire the Kentucky Nip. And so, over the years, my half-dozen readers have spread the story around the world that the name of the church was a tribute to their longtime minister. Turns out the “wood” was just a coincidence.

Here’s the real story: “For years we had been looking for a bigger property,” says Reverend Mitchell, “and in the 1940s we came across a heavily wooded lot on East Parkway. Since the new church would no longer be located on Linden Avenue, we decided to change the name and incorporate “wood” into our church’s new name to reflect its new setting. »

Although you’d never know it from the decidedly modern style of the current buildings, Lindenwood is actually one of the oldest congregations in our town. According to the official church history, in fact, “Only two religious buildings in Memphis predate Linden Avenue. Calvary Episcopal was built in 1841 and St. Peter’s Catholic Church in 1852. Our church was erected in 1859.”

Some sources say the church, a member of the Disciples of Christ denomination, dates back to 1837, when members met in a house on what is now Front Street and later moved into an empty school nearby. The real story, however, probably begins with a real church building, and it actually took place in 1859, with a handsome brick shrine erected on Linden Street, as it was then called, at the cost of $22,000. The interior was barely finished when the Civil War suspended construction.

The church served as a hospital for Union soldiers during the war as well as for patients suffering from yellow fever during the terrible epidemics of the late 1800s. At one point, when things calmed down, a church history says the members decided to add square towers to the front corners, “to add dignity and make it look more religious”. Based on old renderings, their plans succeeded.

Over the years the congregation grew, with many ministers leading the flock, as they say. The ‘church’ building, on the southeast corner of Linden and Mulberry, has become a neighborhood landmark, standing out from the small houses and boarding houses that surrounded it.

In 1937, Reverend Howard Thomas Wood, who had previously pastored churches in Kentucky and Texas, came to Memphis with his wife, Jennie. After being here only a few years, Wood published an essay titled “Tomorrow” in a parish bulletin. In it, he noted that “our pioneer ancestors built well, right in the heart of Memphis, but now we’re outgrowing the present facility.”

He envisioned “a new modern church with all the appointments and equipment”, and he certainly had big dreams, predicting “a large cosmopolitan church of 5,000 members, fully staffed with missionaries in the foreign field, and a large Bible school of at least 1,000 members.

With World War II underway, these large projects had to wait, but in 1945 church officials purchased eight acres of undeveloped land on East Parkway. For years, the only clue of the upcoming church was a fancy wrought-iron sign telling motorists, “Future Home of Linden Avenue Christian Church.”

But in the 1950s, church officials invited designers to submit plans, with the main requirement being a Southern Colonial-style campus. The new church began with just two buildings – a “temporary” sanctuary (pictured here) and an education building – but the building fund committee had obviously worked hard, managing to raise an astonishing $825,000, so big plans were in store.

In 1953 a church history announced, “The great transition took place, and in October Linden Avenue Christian Church became Lindenwood Christian Church.” Other buildings were constructed, but at some point the church members decided to adopt a more modern style of architecture. In fact, Reverend Mitchell says he understands church members are concerned that Lindenwood looks too much like First Baptist Church, a towering building just up the street at East Parkway and Poplar.

For some reason in the drastic change in design, anyone is unlikely to confuse the two churches today. The main sanctuary, consecrated in 1966, is decidedly modern with a flat roof, a narrow bell tower, a single row of relatively small stained glass windows, and a row of unadorned cast concrete columns, connected at the top by arches. The building looks nice enough, but I suspect members of the old place on Linden wouldn’t think it looks ‘ecclesiastical’ enough.

If you ask me, Lindenwood’s most stunning feature is inside – the Golightly Memorial Pipe Organ, installed in 1966 as a gift from the Golightly family, longtime church members. Built by the famous Moller Company of Maryland, it originally had more than 3,500 pipes, each handcrafted from fine woods, brass, and pewter alloys. The largest of them is 32 feet long and the smallest is only three-eighths of an inch. Now, you’d think this could handle any kind of music ever written, but the church’s website ( explains the later improvements better than me:

“In June 2001, the Golightly Memorial Trompette en Chamade was added, as was the Carolyn Sellers Sharpe Grand Facade, giving a stunning visual on the chancel wall. The pipes are flamed copper (12 pipes), polished zinc (20 pipes) and in polished copper (61 pipes). ; a watch, clarinet, harmonic flute, violone 16′ and a trumpet 8′ and 16′ at the grand; renovation of the Iona F. Reed memorial harp; as well as preparations for the ultimate completion of over 90 ranks.

The Lauderdales have a proud history of musical achievement, with our chimney lined with dusty trophies greeting my oboe recitals at Mid-South Fair talent shows, but I confess I don’t know what those hallmarks mean. Still, after seeing (and hearing) the mighty Golightly, I left Sanctuary thinking maybe it was time to replace the Happy Hal xylophone in the hallway of the mansion with something a little more impressive.

The Reverend Howard Thomas Wood – called Tom by all who knew him – died in 1980, having pastored Lindenwood for 31 years. His son, Trent, eventually moved to Oklahoma where he traded a career in broadcasting for a career in banking. He passed away in 2014, but it’s obvious his family had strong ties to the church where his father worked for so many years.

After all, Trent named one of his sons Linden. It’s true: Linden wood. How many people today, I wonder, name their children after their church?

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Mail: Vance Lauderdale, Memphis Magazine, PO Box 1738, Memphis, TN 38101.

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