Preserving Your Story
A church’s records are priceless and irreplaceable. Should the worst happen – whether fire, tornado, or flood– if a church’s records are not properly archived you could lose the entire history of your ministry. Toward the end of 2018 we regrettably lost three PC(USA) churches to fires and all was lost, and it’s the same story with each – no one saw it coming. Down in Nebraska this Spring a number of churches were severely damaged due to flooding. I have not heard the fate of the records of those congregations nor whether or not they were even in the building, but imagine if they were? Now imagine the same happening to your congregation and the devastating feeling you would have once you heard that your entire history has been lost. It is unsettling. It is heartbreaking. And it is entirely preventable.
As clerks it is our highest calling to preserve the history of our congregations. Among the denominations of the United States the Presbyterians are known as the “gold standard” of record preservation and that is thanks to our hardworking clerks and the extensive resources we have available to us through the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia, PA. Every record of significance for the Presbytery of South Dakota (and its predecessors) are safely housed at PHS, which means our entire story and history are safe and will be for generations to come. And if I need access to these files? No worries! I simply call or e-mail their reference desk and within 24-48 hours I have a response with direct references from the relevant materials needed to provide me with the answers that I need. And the best part? They do all the research for me! It is, in every way, a win-win.
I know it is fun to have the original records in our possession. To, on occasion, open the old books and to see, feel and smell the history residing in our hands in that moment. It’s breathtaking and you can feel the enormity of your history within that entire experience. But as I said before, the next time you hold those records take a moment to think, what if the unexpected happens and no one in the entire future of our congregation ever experiences that moment again? Or even worse, what if no one ever has the opportunity to read nor see your story again? Yes, oral tradition will hold fast for a while, but eventually that too will die.
The Presbyterian Historical Society has recently created an incredible video, which is linked below. Take a few minutes to see that great care they provide for our records:
If you have any questions about records preservation I would be more than happy to help. I am extremely passionate about preserving our stories (as you can tell), so please let me help you in whatever way I can.
Many blessings on your continued work in your role as clerk. Remember that your work is a blessing to your congregation!
Mission Coordinator and Stated Clerk