|A Church in Plevna, Ks ca 1920|
Many denominations have very useful helps for establishing local church archives and keeping the history. The Commission on Archives and History of the UMC published a small booklet just in time for the writing of the 1975 church history. Significant areas are underscored and the outline of the finished work clearly follows the suggestions of the booklet by Wallace Guy Smeltzer.
In the introductory remarks he notes: "An accurate, well written history of a local church has real value. It lifts up the achievements, services, and sacrifices of past generations in the church. It inspires pride and loyalty on the part of present church members...It can enhance one's appreciation and love of the church of our Lord which is a "thousand years the same."
At the time the guide was written the General Conference made the compilation of such a history the responsibility of a local church history committee under the guidance of a local church historian. The history was to be compiled and then brought up to date each year.
The booklet was divided into subheadings:
Source Material for the History
Exploring Local Church Sources
Annual Conference and Denominational Sources
Organizing the Material for the History
-Table of contents
-Preface by the author or the committee
-Chapter 1 How United Methodism came to (name of community)
-Chapter 2 Our Connectional Relationships
-Chapter 3 The Story of Our Church Property
-Chapter 4 The Story of Our Church Organizations
-Chapter 5 The Record of Our Spiritual Life and Concern
-Chapter 6 The Growth of Our Church and Its Future
-Chapter 7 Our Present Church Organization
-Chapter 8 Our Current Membership Roll
Origin of the Church
-Connectional Relations of the Church
-The Organized Life of the Congregation
-The Spiritual Life of the Church
-The Progress of the Church
-Publishing the History
It is interesting to note that in the "Spiritual Life of the Church", the author says "the spiritual vitality of a church is difficult to measure. Some indication of it is provided, however, by evangelistic activities, such as camp meetings in earlier days, revival services, visitation evangelism campaigns, and preparatory class training. An important indicator is the number of full time Christian workers produced by the church, such as ministers, missionaries, religious education directors or church music leaders....A social conscience of the church can be set forth by recording participation inactions for the causes of temperance, economic justice, civil rights, benevolent contributions, and charitable relief..."
History, however, is more than mere names, dates and places. A history should also clearly express the motivations, attitudes, and beliefs of people in a given time or it will be nothing but dry data. It is the spiritual legacy a church history carries...from generation to generation...telling the marvelous works of God among a people.