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April Newsletter 2017

Featured April Newsletter 2017

April Newsletter, 2017
Raising Ebenezers.


Three years into my work as General Secretary of the General Commission on Archives and History (GCAH), I am recognizing that the Commission is  in the Ebenezer business.

Do you recognize the word "Ebenezer"?

Most folks' first association of the word comes from the miserly, miserable, mean character in Charles Dickens famous novel A Christmas Carol,  Ebenezer Scrooge.

Others relate to it from a hymn United Methodists love to sing, "Come Thou Font of Every Blessing." (This hymn is often associated with Charles Wesley when in truth it was written by Robert Robinson. A school teacher and contemporary of  the Wesley brothers, Robinson was
spiritually awakened by the Methodist movement and became a lay preacher before joining the Baptists.)

Come thou font of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace; Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it, mount of thy redeeming love. (United Methodist Hymnal #400)

Listen for the Ebenezer. It comes  in verse 2.

Here I raise mine EBENEZER, hither by thy help I come; And I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God, He to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood.

I grew up singing this hymn so many times that I have memorized the words. For years, coming to the "Ebenezer" part, I would just sing right through it. As a pastor, leading worship, the congregation would be singing good old #400 and I would think to myself, "Fred, you need to look-up 'Ebenezer.'" This  is an honest and unflattering confession.

Now I am discovering that the backstory on Ebenezer is a treasure trove for explaining the work of GCAH. Handing out Ebenezers  is what we do.

Here is what my word study revealed: "Ebenezer" comes from a Bible story found in I Samuel, Chapter 7. The prophet Samuel literally lifts-up a stone as a monument for people to look upon. There has  been a great victory, a surprising triumph over  the Philistines  at Mizpah, so the prophet
establishes a memorial. A "stone of  help" is how the Hebrew word Ebenezer translates to  English.

So, an Ebenezer is  a marker commemorating a God-moment when people overcame overwhelming odds  stacked against them. An Ebenezer is  a symbolic object meant to authenticate the way the Divine prevailed. The story in I Samuel says  that the prophet, celebrating said victory, lifted a stone--literally raised the Ebenezer ("the stone of help")---calling out to the assembly to take this God- moment into their hearts. He asked them to behold the symbolic monument in front of them and look back on it again in the future: "Thus far the Lord has helped us," are the words he says  when he raises  the monument (I Samuel 7:12 RSV).

There you have it. An Ebenezer is a commemoration, a marker, or a memorial to a place or moment that reverberates  divine action and creates  a memory for all time.

"Thus far, the Lord has  helped us." Think upon this. "Thus  far" speaks  of  more than one static moment in time. Ebenezers are meant to be so much more. They are a place, a marker of a moment sparking with God's Spirit. That spark ignites  a re-imagining of  the present and future because people, in Ebenezer moments---experiencing God in those moments---are stirred to new possibilities and potential.

Ebenezers are shout-outs in stone or bronze: "See what God has done!" They are like the stones Jesus points to when the religious  establishment tried to dampen the enthusiasm of  the crowds  that welcomed him to Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday. He said, "If you quiet them, even the stones will shout" (Luke 19:40).

They are like another stone which, a mere seven days later, was mysteriously rolled away from the tomb where they had sealed off Jesus' lifeless body on that terrible Friday when he died.

These stones come to mind with the Ebenezers of the Hebrews Scriptures because they contain more than the mere mass and matter of an object of stone or metal or any-THING serving as just a marker. They stand for the life of God always  busy in the world calling new life out of  death, raising hope over despair and opening ways  through the things  humanity experiences  as insurmountable obstacles.

So the GCAH raises Ebenezers. It is one of the most important things we do, pointing to "see-what- God-has-done" places  and moments.

The Commission's Historic Site (para. 1712.1a) and Heritage Landmark (para.1712.1b-d, 2) programs are for creating Ebenezer moments and the Commission's Heritage Sunday materials are meant for local congregations to discover and gain inspiration from Ebenezer moments in their own local histories.

There are marvelous stories and rich histories to be discovered, told and retold. They join our hearts, souls and voices to Samuel's "Thus far the Lord has helped us!" alongside Easter's rising from, and Pentecost's  transformation coming through, the very thing paralyzing us  with hopelessness.

Here's to the next Ebenezer the GCAH will raise---and the next, and the next. With each one our spirits are lifted with more confidence so that even when it seems that all things are stacked against us, God can, does, and will do marvelous  things  again and again.

O to  grace how great a  debtor, daily I'm constrained to  be! Let thy goodness like a fetter bind my wandering heart to thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O Take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.

Rev. Fred Day,  General Secretary
General Commission on Archives and History (GCAH)
By understanding the past, GCAH helps  envision the future!

More about recent Historic Site dedications in Trondheim UMC in Norway, Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Fl.

More about becoming a United Methodist Historic Site and Heritage Landmarks:

More about celebrating Heritage Sunday. You may discover your church is worthy of becoming a United Methodist Historic Site:

From Camps to Campus.

The aftermath of December 7, 1941 changed the lives of countless people and still echo around us to this day. It had special impact on the Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants living in the U.S. Records  at the General Commission on Archives  and History  document those times.  The records show the church involved in ministry in a variety of ways.

After the United States entered World War II, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. As  a result of  the executive order over 100,000 Japanese-Americans  and Japanese immigrants were interned at various camps located around the United States. Among the turmoil of  that event were college-age students  and those about to enter college. What were they to do?

Learn More

Introducing Brian Shetler- Methodist Librarian.
Following a nationwide search, the Drew Library is pleased to announce the appointment of Brian Shetler as head of special collections, archives and Methodist librarian. Brian will direct the Department of Special Collections and Drew University Archives, and will lead library services for the General Commission on Archives and History (GCAH) of The  United Methodist Church.

"This is a dream job for me," says Shetler, who has served as Special Collections assistant for the library since arriving at Drew in 2013. In this role, he has supported researchers, faculty and students by monitoring the Wilson Reading Room,  assisting patrons with research requests and curating exhibits of special collections materials. "I have the opportunity to share an amazing collection of rare books and archival materials with our students, faculty and staff," adds Shetler, who has  already processed several Drew
archival collections and given class presentations on rare books and materials for students of the College of  Liberal Arts (CLA) and the Theological School.

Read the full article here.

Did you know? Brian rediscovered a very rare King James Bible in the collection at Drew University. It garnered a story in The New York  Times!

Engage in History!

The General Commission on Archives and History (GCAH) is pleased to announce the latest addition to our on-line resources. We are now inviting the public to help  us  transcribe the hand-
written captions to over 100,000 on-line images. So here is your chance to be in on the beginning of something exciting; tell your friends  and families!

This  is  an invitation to help  make history more accessible. Between 1910 and the late 1920s, The Methodist Episcopal Church Board of Missions sent photographers around the world to document the work of  the Board. The result was over 200 photograph albums containing more than 45,000 pages of images; nearly 200,000 images  in total. The images were assembled into these albums in the 1930s and handwritten captions were added to the images. Many of the captions came from the photographers' logs  or notes.

The images capture what life was like in many places around the globe at the beginning of the twentieth century along with the work of  the Church in creating schools, hospitals and churches.

We are asking you to participate in transcribing these handwritten captions. This will result in a more complete and robust searching ability for these important images.

Here is  how it works:

*Click on the Register link on the home page which will take you to our registration form
*Fill in the registration form and click submit
*You will receive an email letting you know that your request was submitted and another when your account has been approved
*You can then click on the Transcribe a Collection link and select a collection to begin viewing the images and transcribing the captions
*You are not committed to working on just one collection at a time. Feel free to work on a variety; there are images  from all over the world.
*Staff at GCAH will review your contributions and will decide when your work is ready to be marked as complete. Multiple people can even work on the same image.

Feel free to invite your friends to participate. Share what you've accomplished on Facebook or other social media.

Visit and begin your trip of  engaging in history!

An Invitation to Heritage Sunday.
May 21, 2017: "Milestones" --- Calling Local Churches to Discover and  Celebrate Their History.
Heritage Sunday shall be observed on Aldersgate Day (May 24), or the Sunday preceding that date. The day provides an opportunity for reflection on heritage, celebration of where the Church has been, how it understands itself as it shapes
us today, and the meaning of Christian conferencing.
Heritage  Sunday calls the
Church to remember the past by committing itself to the continuing call of God. from 264.1, The Book of Discipline,  2016
Heritage Sunday is set aside for remembering our legacy as United Methodists. It is an ideal time for local churches and Annual Conference Commissions on Archives and History and Historical Societies to develop programs and projects reflecting the importance of history in congregational formation and casting the future.

This year's approach to Heritage Sunday is something new and different. Instead of focusing on a denomination-wide historic person or event, the General Commission on Archives and History's (GCAH) History and Interpretation Committee urges your congregation to discover and then celebrate your local church's history.

We think this  is  tremendous  opportunity for church leaders  and congregation to uncover, examine and take inspiration from your local church's story. We want to encourage you to lift up the defining people, events and special moments that stirred, ignited and continue to shape the mission and ministry where you are.

Your congregation's history---in parts or as a whole---is an untapped resource. We hope this year's theme will help you unlock it.

History and historians sometimes get a bad wrap, as if the subject and its devotees are only interested in the past and tediously preserving it.

At GCAH, we believe and experience every day the power of history not merely as remembrance but as active engagement, the past pointing to purpose, the DNA that makes us who we are, forming how  we live-into the future.

Please visit to download the resources!

United Methodist Almanac.

Share the United Methodist Almanac  from GCAH!
Check it out and share with your networks! The Almanac features a regular calendar commemorating the lives  of  women and men from the Wesleyan tradition. Their journeys  into faith and life experiences offer a compelling witness for reflection, prayer, and inspiration. Plus, the Almanac's content is  a great resource for sermon illustrations, leading devotions  and Sunday school classes.
What about stumping your friends with UMC historical facts for #TBT, Facebook and Twitter? It's all here on our Facebook page.

Here's  the almanac posting from April 4th on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

Martin Luther King, Jr.,  "a drum major for the Lord," was the spiritual leader of  the modern Civil Rights  movement who championed nonviolent resistance in the struggle to end racial segregation, intolerance, poverty, and violence in mid- twentieth century America.
Born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, King graduated from high school at age 16, received a B.A. from
Morehouse College, attended Crozer Theological Seminary, and earned a Ph.D. from Boston University. In 1954, he accepted an offer to pastor Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, where, despite threats to his life and the bombing of his home, he led the famous bus boycott against segregation. King was soon after elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Council which spearheaded massive nonviolent protest marches against segregation in the South.

In August, 1963, King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech before over 250,000 marchers gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. His "dream" of an America where justice and racial harmony prevail captured the imagination of the nation. King's  ideals  were rooted in faith.

"Jesus...said, 'Love your enemies.' We should be happy he did not say, 'Like your enemies'...'Like' is a sentimental and affectionate word. How  can we be affectionate toward a person whose avowed aim is to crush our very being and place innumerable stumbling blocks in our path? How can we like a person who is  threatening our children and bombing our homes?  It is  impossible. But Jesus recognized that love is  greater than like. When Jesus  bids  us  to love our enemies, he is  speaking neither of eros or filia; he is speaking of agape, understanding and creative, redemptive goodwill for all...."

After being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, King launched a drive to secure voting rights for African Americans in the South. In 1966, he went North to challenge segregated housing and job discrimination. In his  final campaign in 1968, he helped organize The Poor People's  Campaign against poverty. King was killed on this date in 1968 by a sniper in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had gone to help the organizers  of  a sanitation worker's strike.

General Commission on Archives  and  History GCAH
(973) 408-3189
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