By Clare Bratten
NASHVILLE, TN — James Baldwin once said “. . . as Malcolm X once put it, the most segregated hour in American life is high noon on Sunday.” Kirk Adkisson and his wife Deborah who arrived here in April are hoping to change that. Kirk Adkisson who characterizes himself as a “church planter” is a minister with Evangelical Presbyterian Churches, or EPC, to start a church called “All Souls Church” that serves a diverse congregation.
“We want a church on Sunday mornings to look like it will be when Jesus returns – of every tribe and tongue,” says Adkisson.
Since July, the nascent congregation is meeting in Mogul’s Barber and Lounge on Buchanan Street and the Adkissons have hosted backyard barbecue parties in their Buena Vista home as a way of introducing themselves to the community.
“We throw huge parties – on June 29th we had over 250 people – we had two whole hogs, two bands and a DJ – it’s one way of getting to know people and celebrate. We live in Buena Vista Heights. Our neighborhood is largely African American which we embrace – we’re dreading the day when that crosses over [with gentrification] and loses its historic roots. Our neighbors are the best neighbors we’ve ever had . . . We’ve connected more deeply with them–they’ve welcomed us with open arms, into their lives and homes.”
The EPC consists of more than 600 churches with approximately 145,000 members. Their web page states their mission is to “plant churches. across the United States and especially in urban communities and college towns.” The EPC grew out of the split from the Presbyterian USA church.
“We worship on Sundays at 4 pm. We started a small worship in our house in April and in July we moved to the barber shop. We have on a Sunday, thirty to thirty-five people. If everybody came at the same time, we are probably tracking around 50,” said Adkisson.
Plans are to move to the Jones Paideia Magnet School at 1800 9th Ave N. in the fall.
“We’re partnering with them to support teachers who are doing amazing work. There are children in North Nashville who are homeless. Where do they get their school clothes, the goods they need? Where do they turn? We want to be there to bring some loving care,” he said.
Adkisson speaks bluntly of the segregation of churches in the South and how he wants that to change.
“People [in Nashville] who had resources abandoned North Nashville and East Nashville and started private schools. If Blacks were allowed in a majority culture church, they were in the balcony. The city has struggled because of that for decades. We want to be a church in North Nashville for North Nashville. We want to be a multi ethnic, multi-cultural congregation and bring resources – we want to live life here. We don’t want to just be a ministry of words – we want to be a ministry that reaches people where they live with the needs they have. There are people all over North Nashville who are hungry, who are being displaced, who are threatened that their hospital will close.”
“If somebody needs food, needs help feeding their children, finding work, getting to work – we want to be there. I want people to understand that we are coming from a posture of humility – we know God has loved North Nashville for a long time. We’re saying Christianity should bring its resources to people in need.”