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By Jennifer Barber, Archivist

The Book of Discipline charges each church, whether it’s days or centuries old, to keep its heritage through historical records. Record keeping is an integral ministry that makes it possible to share the good ideas, brave attempts, and dismal failures of our past.

Photo by Christina Dillabough

History wall at Catalina UMC

The Desert Southwest Conference Archives & History department holds the historical records of Conference churches and their membership. It also serves as a resource for how to collect, preserve, and make available these old papers, photographs and books so that your church’s story can be told for generations.

Want to know what records to collect and how to determine what holds historical importance?

Every day we create records that have the ability to tell our church’s story. By managing the records we create today, we can ensure that a full picture of our church is available for tomorrow. Archives & History will work with your church to determine which types of records need to be kept forever, what records need only be kept for a certain number of years before shredding, and which records should be sent to the District or Conference Archives. For example, often overlooked records are committee meeting minutes. Each church should have a collection of minutes organized by committee and date. A complete list of relevant records is available on the conference website.

By DSC Communications

Jennifer Barber (on right) shares historic details with Christina Dillabough (on left) for an inspiring feature article.

Want to know where and how to store these records so that they survive for the next generation?

Many of our oldest records have become very fragile. Disasters threaten to destroy parts of our memory. Knowing how to store and care for the historical records can be challenging, but the rewards are amazing. Contact Jennifer Barber at to request help with this important task.

Want to know how to find and extract the stories within these old documents?

Historical records tell us deeply touching stories. The words of our foremothers and forefathers share faith, determination, struggle, and hope that can help us. They can inspire, challenge, and guide us through our ministry. Their stories may help us understand some of the ministries our churches have undertaken and give us new ideas on how to reach out to our communities.

History can show every generation how our churches were organized, how they triumphed, and how they give us new direction. Using technology to organize and tell these stories is one way to interest and include younger generations in a leadership role.

Photo By Dinah Brooks

50th Anniversary of CITDUMC Photo By Dinah Brooks

Want to know how to share the stories?

By celebrating our past we are honoring those that have come before us. These celebrations can bring together our church communities to create meaningful experiences today. From the youngest Sunday school class putting on a skit, to the oldest members sharing their memories, everyone can be a part of the celebration. Pastors can look to old service bulletins for inspiration on themes, readings, or orders of worship. Photographs can be displayed that cause reflection and inspiration. There are endless ways to celebrate our heritage. Archives & History lists celebration ideas on its webpage, and new ideas are always welcome.

Want to know more?

To browse the archives collection or to schedule a consultation, contact Jennifer Barber, Conference Archivist at .

Online Resources

Printed Resource

Guidelines for Leading Your Congregation 2013-2016: Church Historian (available for purchase from Cokesbury for $3.25): http://www.cokesbury.com/forms/ProductDetail.aspx?pid=1124041

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