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The History of the Church of the Advent

The Episcopal Church came to Tennessee with James Otey – in the beginning; mostly the curious came to hear the Reverend Mr. Otey. They knew nothing of the Episcopal Church, and they were fascinated with the use of the Book of Common Prayer. “Come on, let’s go and hear that man preach and listen to his wife jaw back at him,” said one of the curious, unfamiliar with the customary responses of an Episcopal congregation. Often, only the priest’s wife knew how to participate in the services. But the Episcopal Church in Tennessee began to grow.

In 1829 Otey, future Bishop of Tennessee, founded Christ Church parish in Nashville. The new church followed the accepted practice of renting church pews; this procedure procured most of the operating money for churches. But then in 1848, Charles Tomes came to Christ Church as Rector, and with him came controversy. Tomes, the son-in-law of Bishop Otey, shared the Bishop’s views that pews should be free. They were distressed that often the free galleries were full to overflowing; while many of the assigned pews were vacant. When put to a vote in April of 1857, the motion was blocked by 8 families who refused to have all pews free of charge. Those who still stood by the conviction that pews should be free to everyone decided to split off from Christ Church. And so Church of the Advent was born, meeting above a book store, and offering free seating. Tomes did not conceive of the idea of the split, but he did accept the call to be Advent’s first rector. Unfortunately, Reverend Tomes became ill and died even before preaching his first service at Advent.

Dr. Charles Quintard, a man of great reputation, was approached and accepted the call to become the next Rector for Advent in 1857. Quintard indeed went on to become Bishop of Tennessee.

Problems during and following the War Between the States postponed the building of the first home for Advent – it was finally completed and consecrated in 1887. Advent remained at this location in downtown Nashville (near the Ryman Auditorium) until 1911, when the next church building on 17th and Edgehill was consecrated. Advent flourished under several Rectors, including Dr. Prentice Pugh who served from 1916 to 1955. Under his influence fourteen men dedicated themselves to the ordained ministry, two of who later became Bishops.

In the late 1950’s, the idea of relocating began to grow as the neighborhood where Advent was located changed, and the migration to the suburbs by the population of Nashville began. For 15 years debate simmered, and after several false starts at acquiring a new site, the property at Franklin Road and Lakemont was purchased. In the early 1970’s new and wonderful things were happening, from the election of the first women to the Vestry, to the consecration of the new building on Advent Sunday, 1973.

Through several more priests, up to the current rector, the Reverend Thomas Hotchkiss, Advent has continued to grow and change. Children’s programs, music and Christian Education are stressed, as well as a binding sense that Church of the Advent is a loving family. Women have become more and more involved in the parish life, in all aspects, including several female senior wardens. Past, present and future are cherished, as symbolized in the drawings in this brochure – the stone font from the 1858 building; and the Celtic cross from the 1911 building are kept with honor at this newest building, represented by the steeple. Advent treasures its past, nurtures its present, and plans for its future in Christ.