Archives & History Reports (1990-99)

1999 Report to Annual Conference
COMMISSION ON ARCHIVES & HISTORY

PURPOSE:

     To enable more effective Christian ministry in Louisiana by encouraging the preservation of records of God's past actions and assisting in their interpretation and proclamation as a foundation for present and future activities.

WE CONFESS:     

     That we have not adequately convinced Louisiana's United Methodists of the importance of preserving their records to know, understand, and proclaim in various media-from published histories to programs and celebrations-those of our past responses to God's Love and Grace which have been most, and least, successful.

WE CELEBRATE:

  • The progress Timothy Hebert has made on researching and publishing historical sketches of United Methodist churches in Louisiana.
  • The work of Timothy Hebert and Ms. Fern Christensen in seeking to establish a Louisiana United Methodist Historical Society.
  • The work of Ms. Ella C. Edwards and her helpers at Centenary College to administer the Archives of the Louisiana Annual Conference.

WE ANTICIPATE:

  • More churches' successful applications for historical markers.
  • Timothy Hebert's completion of the Historical Church Sketches Project.
  • Further development of the Conference Archives at Centenary College and the development of an archive at Dillard University.
  • More active involvement of individuals and churches of the Conference in preserving and understanding their records and their better proclaiming What God Hath Wrought as an inspiration and guide for more effective ministry.

Robert G. Sherer, Chair

1998 Report to Annual Conference
COMMISSION ON ARCHIVES & HISTORY

PURPOSE:

   To enable more effective Christian ministry in Louisiana by encouraging the preservation of records of God's past actions in and through the churches of Louisiana and their interpretation and proclamation as the foundation for future activities.

WE CONFESS:

   That we have not adequately convinced Louisiana's United Methodists of the importance of preserving their records to know, understand, and proclaim in various media - from published histories to programs and celebrations - which of our past responses to God's Love and Grace have been more and less, successful.

WE CELEBRATE:

  • The progress Timothy Hebert has made on researching and publishing historical sketches of all United Methodist Churches in Louisiana.
  • Timothy Hebert and Fern Christensen's work to establish a United Methodist Historical Society in Louisiana.
  • Ella C. Edwards and her helpers at Centenary College's work administering the Archives of the Louisiana Annual Conference.

WE ANTICIPATE:

  • More churches' successful applications for historical markers.
  • The completion of Timothy Hebert's Historical Sketches of churches project.
  • Further development of the Conference Archives at Centenary College and the development of similar archival work at Dillard University.
  • More active involvement of individuals and churches of the Conference in preserving and understanding their records and their better proclaiming "What God Hath Wrought" as an inspiration and guide for more effective ministry in the future.

Robert G. Sherer, Chair

1997 Report to Annual Conference
COMMISSION ON ARCHIVES & HISTORY

PURPOSE:

     To enable more effective Christian ministry in Louisiana by encouraging the preservation of records of God's past actions and their interpretation and proclamation as the foundation for future activities.

WE CONFESS:

     That we have not adequately convinced Louisiana's United Methodists ofthe importance of preserving their records to know, understand, and proclaim in various media--from published histories to programs and celebrations--which of our past responses to God's Love and Grace have been more, and less, successful.

WE CELEBRATE:

  • The First United Methodist Church of Bastrop's application for a historical marker, which the Commission unanimously approved.
  • The progress Timothy Hebert has made on researching and publishing historical sketches of all United Methodist Churches in Louisiana.
  • The work of Ella C. Edwards and her helpers at Centenary College's administering the Archives of the Louisiana Annual Conference.

WE ANTICIPATE:

  • More churches' successful applications for historical markers.
  • The completion of Timothy Hebert's Historical Sketches of Churches project.
  • Further development of the Conference Archives at Centenary College and the development of similar archival work at Dillard University.
  • More active involvement of individuals and churches of the Conference in preserving and understanding their records and their better proclaiming What God Hath Wrought as an inspiration and guide for more effective ministry in the future.

ITEMS FOR ACTION:

     The Commission on Archives and History unanimously recommends to the Louisiana Annual Conference that it approve the First United Methodist Church of Bastrop's application for a historical marker.

Robert G. Sherer, Chair

1996 Report to Annual Conference
COMMISSION ON ARCHIVES & HISTORY

PURPOSE:

        The Commision supports the conference repositories at Centenary College and Dillard University and recognizes churches with significant histories.

WE CONFESS:

        We confess that we failed to realize one of our quadrennium goals - that of organizing the Methodist Historical Society in our conference.

WE CELEBRATE: 

  • The continuing work of the staff at our churches.
  • The faithfulness of First United Methodist Church in Eunice, Roanoke United Methodist Church, Calvary United Methodist Church in Thibodaux, and Peoples United Methodist Church of New Orleans who were presented historical markers.
  • The marker placed at the grave of The Reverend Robert James Harp, an early minister in the Caddo Parish area and his biography newly written by Dr. Bentley Sloan.

WE ANTICIPATE:

  • The celebration of Heritage Sunday on April 27, 1997.
  • The utilization of resources available from the General Commission by churches of the Conference.
  • The completion of a pictorial directory of all the conference churches.

James Walter Jones, Chair

1995 Report to Annual Conference
COMMISSION ON ARCHIVES & HISTORY

     The Commission on Archives and History is an agency of the Conference whose mission is twofold: to encourage the preservation of the historical records of the Conference and to exhort local church historians to document and thereby preserve the stories of their congregations.  There are several ways the Commission attempts to fulfill its mission.

     We support and help make policy for our Conference records repositories at Centenary College and Dillard University.

     We encourage local church historians to write the history of their congregations and send a copy for preservation to the Centenary archives.  (These histories should be updated at least every ten years.)  The General Commission is currently preparing a videotape to be used as a guide for all local historians. 

     Notification will be made when the videotape is published.

     We urge every local congregation to observe Heritage Sunday and avail themselves of the resource materials available from the General Commission on Archives and History whose address is Post Office Box 127, Madison, NJ 07940.

     We present historical markers to churches of significant history.  Applications for markers are available from the chairperson of the Commission.

     We ask all district superintendents and agencies of the Conference to deliver their inactive records to the Conference archives at Centenary to be catalogued and made available for research by scholars.

     During this Conference year the Commission presented historical markers to First United Methodist Church in Eunice and Calvary United Methodist Church in Thibodaux.  Also, the Commission assisted in placing a marker at the grave of Rev. Robert James Harp, an early minister in the Caddo Parish area.

James Walter Jones, Chair

1994 Report to Annual Conference
COMMISSION ON ARCHIVES & HISTORY

     The Louisiana Annual Conference Commission on Archives and History labors within two major areas of concern -- preserving and remembering the former experiences of the bodies and constituents of The United Methodist Church in Louisiana and its antecedents.  Directives for fulfilling these responsibilities are delineated in Par. 738 of the Discipline.  In response to its mandates, the Commission:

  1. Maintains repostitories for local church, district and conference records on the campuses of Centenary College and Dillard University.
  2. Offers the services of Ms. Ella Edwards, the Conference Archivist in the Peters Research Center at Centenary College.
  3. Encourages local churches to write and send their histories to each archive for preservation and research.
  4. Urges District Superintendents and other conference agents to send their records to the archives for use by scholars.
  5. Takes note of churches with long and distinguished histories by presenting them with historical markers to memorialize their adventures.
  6. Fosters historical research and scholarship by encouraging the use of our conference archives at Dillard and Centenary.
  7.  Suggests that every local congregation observe Heritage Sunday and avail themselves of the resource materials available from the General Commission.
  8. Stands ready to assist local churches with tasks relating to the chronicling a preserving of their histories. 

     In the interim since last Annual Conference, the Commission presented historical markers to three congregations--the Wesley-Booneville United Methodist Church of Bunkie, which has the distinction of being the oldest African-American church in Rapides Parish; the Glenmora United Methodist Church on the occasion of its centennial, and the First United Methodist Church of Lecompte on Heritage Sunday, which was also its 110th anniversary. 

     While it has its ongoing responsibilities to fulfill, we of the Commission stand ready ft> resource any church or agency in our conference that requires information or assistance in our area of concern.

James W. Jones, Chair

1993 Report to Annual Conference
COMMISSION ON ARCHIVES & HISTORY

     While the work or the Conference Commission on Archive. and History Is usually considered to be largely administrative in nature, it is in fact, a vital form of ministry. We seek to challenge district superintendents, local and district historians, archivists and any others who are custodians of the living records of the church to be good stewards of the past   We encourage the leaders of the church to be celebrants of its history. We exhort those who make history to learn history before they seek to make it anew. In the simplest of terms, we witness to God's work in the spirit of the question, 'what does God teach us since the Bible was canonized?" With the acceptance of the above perceptions, we consider ourselves to be under the same spiritual mandate as ally other servants of the church.

     The Commission has a history of its own.  The Conference has greatly benefited by three earlier achievements: the completion of our Conference repository in the Sam Peters Research Center on the campus of Centenary College; the publication of a major history of Louisiana Methodism entitled Becoming One People by Walter Vernon; and the guidelines for the Conference in the area of Archives and History, prepared in collaboration with the commission by its then chairperson, Lewis Morris, Jr., and adopted at the 1991 session of Annual Conference (Pp.321-323, 1992 Journal).    

     With these achievements strengthening the present work on the Commission, and with the awareness that there are significant needs remaining, we adopted the following goals hr this quadrennium:

During the 1993 Conference year:

          The Commission on Archives and History will help to establish the following procedures and policies for our Conference Archives at Centenary College to be finalized at the Annual Conference meeting in June, 1993:

  1. A records retention policy.
  2. A list of Conference records generating from agencies.
  3. A transfer schedule from these agencies.

During the remainder of the quadrennium, we will:

  1. Organize a Conference historical society.
  2. In consultation with the Conference Board of Pensions:
  • Solicit a sermon manuscript from each retiring minister to be retained in the archives.
  • Develop a program of oral history, routinely solicited from each class of retiring ministers.
  • Seek such histories from those already retired."

     In reorganizing the Conference Commission for the new quadrennium, persons with considerable expertise in the area of its work were newly appointed or were retained from its earlier membership, including four professional archivists and a librarian. With their facility and contribution to the work of the Commission, we are hopeful of establishing sound policies which will more effectively conserve both our historical records and the vitality of our earlier witness.

James W. Jones, Chair

1992 Report to Annual Conference
COMMISSION ON ARCHIVES & HISTORY

     Proper records management has long been a concern as well as a priority for the Commission on Archives and History. These records, generated on both the conference and local church levels, are essential for our understanding of the unique history of our faith. The loss or neglect of these records denies the scholar and layperson alike the 'window" through which the parade of United Methodism can be viewed. It was with this thought in mind that the Commission on Archives and History spearheaded an effort to structure guidelines to assure the church's vital records were properly archived for posterity. This quest culminated last year with approval of a records management program to govern the collection and preservation of those records essential for the understanding and reconstruction of our Church's history and heritage.

     The Commission on Archives and History also recognizes the importance of having a central depository for the conference's vital records. It has thus been an active supporter or the conference's main archival depository at Centenary College, as well as the Dillard University Archives. The Commission has pledged its support, both spiritual and financial, to the conference archives and its new archivist in hopes that the Louisiana Annual Conference Archives can be a model for other conference archives throughout the United States and abroad.

     The Commission likewise reemphasizes its intentions to work closely with the local church in the latter's efforts to collect and to preserve its records. The Commission feels the local church is the single most important generator of records vital to the understanding of our faith.

Lewis Morris, Sr., Chair

1991 Report to Annual Conference
COMMISSION ON ARCHIVES & HISTORY

     The Commission on Archives and History recommends the following report to be adopted as guidelines for the Annual Conference in the area of Archives and History:

The Local Church

     1. Each district Council on Ministries in The Louisiana Conference of The United Methodist Church shall inaugurate a program to train local church historians to identify and preserve those records vital to understanding and recreating the history of the local church.
This program can be accomplished through "in service" workshops and district seminars. The
Conference Commission on Archives and History and the conference archivist at Centenary
College can help district Councils on Ministries secure leadership for the training sessions.

     2. The Annual Conference shall require each local church to maintain a continuous series of charge conference records, the most valuable source of information on the local church. Maintenance of these records is essential, not only for administrative purposes but also as the source of "raw data" which provide the researcher insight into the personality of the local church. Every four years, these records shall be sent to the conference archives at Centenary College to be microfilmed and returned for filing in the local church, or miaofilm copies may be purchased for the nominal cost of film.

     3. Local church historians shall institute a comprehensive program of records retention.  This should include the collection and maintenance of items such as worship bulletins, newsletters, audio and video records of worship services, certificates, minutes of board meetings, and other such records.

     4. Local churches shall, as a minimum, maintain the official Methodist membership record book. Ideally, however, each church should maintain separate books for membership, baptisms, deaths, marriages, and confirmations. Maintaining separate books allows all entries to be made alphabetically and chronologically for easier reference. This method, likewise, allows the inclusion of more detailed information, such as occupations, professions, and family connections, which is essential for historical research.

     5. Each local church should house its membership books and records in a special place (preferably fireproof) in the church. These membership records are an irreplaceable link to the church's past and can easily be misplaced or lost if not almost ceremonially kept in a special place in the

     6. Each local church owning a cemetery shall compile an inventory of its interments which also indicates locations. This inventory shall be stored with the membership records and updated every four years with names and locations of new interments. A copy of this inventory and subsequent supplements shall be forwardel to the conference archives at Centenary College.  Such an inventory is administratively helpful to the local church and is an important archival resource.

     7. Each local church shall prepare a church history and send two copies to the conference archives at Centenary College. This history should be updated every two years and copies sent to the conference archives.  Writing and updating the church's history will encourage the local church in its records management. An important supplement to the usual records are oral histories from the oldest members of the congregation.  A wealth of information beyond the scope of offidal records is harbored in the memories of elders and should be recorded in a timely fashion.

     8. It is highly desirable for each local church to designate a room to serve as that church's archives to house records, photographs, letters, audio and video cassettes, computer diskettes, and other items which add to the church's understanding of its history. The most important items (such as original membership books and deeds) should be stored in a fire proof safe or in a safety deposit box. Such items could be sent to the conference archives at Centenary College for safe keeping or for microrilming and duplication. The archives will keep the originals and send copies back to the church, or return the originals and keep the copies, whichever seems more desirable.

The District Level

     1. A records retention program shall be established at the district level to serve as a link between the local church and the conference. It is suggested that the scaetary to the district superintendent be designated as records management officer for the district office. At the completion of their tenure in office, district superintendents are to have their records microfilmed - primarily the charge conference records) and send the film to the conference archives, or send the records to the archives for microfilming there.

     2. Deeds, records, and other official and legal papers, including the contcnts of the cornerstone of any church that is declared to be abandoned or otherwise discontinued, shall be collected by the district superintendent in whose district said church was located and shalt be depesked for permanent safekeeping in the conference archives. (Discipline: 2548.3)

The Conference Level

     Each conference board, commission, committee, and organization shall designate someone (probably the secretary) to place all records on a records retention schedule. Every four years these records shall be turned over to the conference archives either in original or microfilm form. The conference archives should become a permanent part of each conference group's mailing list. The security and restriction of sensitive information can be determined in advance by consulting with the conference archivist at Centenary College.

The Conference Archives

     1. The Annual Conference should establish and fund the position of one half of a full time professional archivist.

     2. The Conference Commission on Archives nad history will serve as official conference liaison and advisory body for the conferenee archives at Centenary College.

     3. The conference archivist is to be designated as the agent supervising the records retention activities of those entities within the annual conference responsibie for the generation of records detailing conference related matters.  It would be the responsibility of the conference archivist to enforce retention deadlines and to supervise the orderly transfer of these records to the conference archives at their designated time.

Lewis Morris, Sr., Chair

1990 Report to Annual Conference
COMMISSION ON ARCHIVES & HISTORY

     The United Methodist Church approaches the twenty-first century with a sense of accomplishment as she looks back upon a century of growth, reconciliation and reorgani-zation. The church has always prided herself in her ability to adapt to an ever-changing, complex world. She has never rested upon her laurels, and her spiritual fervency has prepared her well for the uncertainties facing her in particular, and Christianity in general, as we embark upon the final chapter of the twentieth century.

     We, the People Called Methodists, stand as one of the more unique religious bodies ever called into God's service Our history is rich in drama. We trace our heritage to a small coterie of men and women who sought to bring a new spirit of personalism and excitement to what they perceived to be a staid, exclusive-minded church which they opined had abdicated its desire to serve These Methodists were chided, but they persevered. "The world is my parish," John Wesley exclaimed when rebuked by the Church of England, and this new religious movement did indeed move beyond the fields and quarries of England to the larger world which awaited it with a mixture of hesitation and eagerness.

     The Commission on Archives and History is normally looked upon as being one of the "minor" commissions and boards comprising The United Methodist Church. We realize most people live by the adage "live for today and plan for tomorrow," but we envision our task as being one of educating all United Methodists as to the importance of preserving our history via the maintenance of those records which enable us to reconstruct the heritage of our denomination.

     At the January Convocation of Boards, the Commission on Archives and History engaged in a self-evaluation of its responsibilities and how to best carry out its mandate. Do we exist simply to handout historical markers at conference each year? The commission rejected this n6tion and immediately embarked upon an appraisal of what it envisions its duties to be We decided it is incumbent upon us to be directly involved with the archival program of the Annual Conference This is to be accomplished with our working closely with the Conference Archives at Centenary College, especially with the development and realization of the new facility planned for the college Secondly, we see our responsibilities as being one of educating the local church on the importance of proper records management. The Commission on Archives and History is thereby convinced it will he a visible and vibrant force in the Louisiana Annual Conference in the years to come.

     "The Past is Prologue," is inscribed on the facade of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. This is likewise the credo of the Commission on Archives and History. We are excited about the future of the The United Methodist Church in Louisiana but we are likewise mindful the success of our efforts in the future depends greatly upon our appreciation and appropriation of the lessons we learned from our past.

Lewis Morris, Jr, Chair