Ways to save your church’s history
    June 12 2017 by Marcia Phillips

    The Historical Committee of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) values the collective story of what God has accomplished in our churches and knows you do also. That story can only be known and told to our present congregations and future generations if it is first captured and preserved. A few simple, responsible steps can ensure that together we save this story.
    First, the records – minutes, photographs and personal remembrances, as well as other bits and pieces that speak to the unique story of your church – must be collected and kept in a safe place. What you may find scattered among storage closets, filing cabinets and old desk drawers could be the only documents that support personal recollections. Mind you, the memories of long-term members are also valuable and should be captured in oral interviews that become written documents or electronic copies. 
    The memories and the paperwork together support the account of what actually happened. Every church should have a church historian that proactively oversees the collecting and saving of its history. 
    Second, your church building may have storage space available for historical documents but it should meet some basic requirements. Facts show that the second greatest threat to old artifacts is moisture in any form; the third is fire, but the single greatest threat to the survival of historic records is humans who lose, destroy or neglect protecting the documents. 
    The storage space should be dark with consistent temperature and humidity. This can be as simple as a locked closet or filing cabinet, but should never be an attic or basement where water risk is highest in the form of flooding or leaks. 
    If any of your documents predate the 20th century, those records should be stored separately from newer papers, which are more wood pulp, highly acidic and damaging. 
    For the same reason, older papers and photographs are better stored in metal containers (like filing cabinets) than wooden or cardboard or even plastic boxes.
    Due to the risk of fire or other catastrophes, your church might consider placing records in a place specially designed to protect them – archives. Some churches choose their local library or historical society, but they may not be well-trained or capable of providing the best preservation resources. 
    There are two great options available to Baptist churches in North Carolina that are ideally suited for church holdings and that the Historical Committee highly recommend.
    Wake Forest University (WFU) in Winston-Salem has been historically the official repository for the BSC, and its library archives hold the physical records of hundreds of churches. They are kept in secure and protective housing, and are currently being scanned to be made available online. 
    WFU has been very responsible in its role of protecting Baptist history in North Carolina and continues to make papers available to researchers and genealogists. 
    I recently found a gentleman’s ancestor in church records in WFU’s holdings, both as a slave before the Civil War and a freedman afterwards. You never know what purpose these records will serve in the future.
    Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in the town of Wake Forest also has well-developed and professional archives that include some special collections, like the papers of the Conservative Resurgence movement and recent convention leaders. They welcome the donation of church records and have an equally strong preservation environment and, like WFU, make records very accessible to patrons. 
    Both of these archives can be contacted through the links at their online websites.
    Finally, we encourage each church to write its story and produce it in a book or other form for its members, and as a testimony to the community of what God is doing inside your church walls. 
    Include the details from minutes along with personal accounts of what makes your church unique, such as missions emphasis or community outreach. Show your church’s heart. 
    The Historical Committee gives an award each year to the best written book. 
    It’s now also granting an award for the best church history in another format, such as a timeline, compact disc or other media. 
    Submissions can be made for the 2017 contest through July 30.
    So, collect your church’s history, preserve it in a safe way and then find a way to communicate it. And by all means, make sure you give a copy to the BSC so we can all rejoice with you in God’s goodness in your local congregation.
    (EDITOR’S NOTE – Marcia Phillips is the chair of the Baptist Records and Documents Subcommittee of the BSC’s Historical Committee. She has a master’s degree in historic preservation and has worked as an archivist for several Christian universities. Phillips’ husband, Bill, serves as pastor of Blaise Baptist Church in Mocksville.)

    6/12/2017 4:06:55 PM by Marcia Phillips | with 0 comments

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