Church Archives: A Reason for ExistenceBill Sumners
Archivesthe very word conjures up all sorts of images. A news commentator in Montgomery, Alabama stated that he knew what an archives was and that he had instructed his wife not to cook anymore of themthey tasted awful. Other images of a dusty old room with piles of record books and clinging cobwebs are equally misplaced.
The term archives can have at least three meanings. It can mean the noncurrent records of an organization or institution preserved because of their continuing value, also referred to, in this sense, as archival material or archival holdings (example: the records of a church or religious institution). The term can also refer to any agency responsible for selecting, preserving and making available for use archival material. The term can also describe the building or part of a building where such materials are located.
What is archival material?
All records created by the church may not be historical or worthy of permanent retention. Housekeeping records such as telephone and utility bills, invoices and check stubs need to be retained only for a limited time and then destroyed. The archival records are those materials that illustrate and document the actions, decisions, policies, programs, and statements of the church.
Purpose of the church archives
Informing the church membership of their heritage through exhibits relies on having historical material to display. These items are of great value for anniversary celebrations or the development of a Heritage Room. The records of the church also assist in public relations efforts of the church. Information from the archives documents the influence and activities of the church in the community. Its stance on various issues, its commitment to the goals of the Kingdom of God, its willingness or lack of willingness to adopt new procedures and programs are all rooted in the church's history.
More traditional and external use of a church archives comes from individuals researching their family history and local history. Genealogists find church records choice material for finding valuable family data. In most communities, the history of the local area cannot be written without discussing the influence of the church.
The importance of church records
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