Featured March Newsletter
March 2017 Newsletter
Just Another Day at GCAH.
Just Another Day at GCAH?
What goes on during a typical shift at the United Methodist Archives
and History center? What does an archivist do all day?
There are always lots of emails to answer, research requests to handle,
scholars to satisfy, collections to process, papers to file and photos to
categorize. There is a steady stream of phone calls to answer, projects
to be completed, and students to supervise. As always, there are tasks
for follow through, deadlines to meet, loops to close, calendars to keep,
supplies to purchase and bills to pay.
All these things are typical, day-in-the-life duties done to fulfill our
mission "to promote and preserve the historical interests of the United
Methodist Church and its antecedents at every level" (2016 Book of Discipline, para. 1703).
As with most jobs there are moments that elevate the ordinary and raise it to a kind of holiness---
instants that break through the humdrum and make it abundantly clear why you chose this work. The
story told below was first shared by my colleague, Dr. Dale Patterson, GCAH Archivist - Records
Administrator and is used with his permission.
"Research requests often start by answering the phone. One recent call, like many others, started with
a question. This particular question: Would I be able to locate information on a Methodist missionary
I asked for a little more detail and sat back comfortably to prepare myself for a potentially
What I received was an unexpected story about Methodist mission and its ability to reach across
years and generations to make connections.
The woman on the other end of the phone was the care-giver for her mother who is suffering from
Alzheimer's disease. When her mother is lucid she asks about a particular missionary she worked
with in the 1950s at the E. Stanley Jones-founded Nur Manzil Center, a psychiatric clinic in India.
The daughter clearly recalled the missionary's first name and thought she knew the last name, but just
needed more information. The time her mother spent working with the missionary at the Center had
been extremely special to her. The daughter thought that if she could discover the name then she might
be able to determine if the missionary was still alive and perhaps get in contact with her.
I told her that we wouldn't have any current contact information on a missionary and the daughter
understood. However, given the information she had, I was able to locate the full name of the
missionary she was seeking.
Unfortunately, the daughter had already seen that name in the records she had researched. This was a
clear indication to me that the missionary had passed away about a decade ago. However, the
archival records GCAH preserves mentioned the missionary's work in India. There was even a
photograph. I scanned the few pages we had and sent them off to the daughter.
I was surprised and deeply touched by her response:
'When my mom woke up from her nap I showed her the document you had sent me. Seeing Frances'
photo her face just lit up and a thousand emotions of memories flashed by.
Thank you for taking the time to bring her this moment of joy. Those years working at Nur Manzil
were the happiest years in my mom's life. From the bottom of our hearts we thank you.
- Sincerely [Name Omitted]'"
"...A thousand emotions of memories flashed by."
Just another day at GCAH?
While experiences like this one do not happen every day here at the United Methodist Archives
Center, every day carries that possibility because of our mission for The United Methodist Church.
Sometimes in ways we might never know.
We like to take every opportunity to say that the work we do as archivists and historians is more than
the passive task of collecting, reading, organizing, shelving, storing and dispensing. The work we do
is the stuff of difference-making recognition and remembrance.
We often speak of our work at The General Commission on Archives and History as a "ministry of
memory" for remembering the past, engaging the present and shaping the future. And we continue to
be humbled and grateful to have this mission and ministry affirmed in such a direct and personal
Some days, like all jobs, the work is mundane. Thank heavens for the days it is not. Thank heavens
for the ones that reconnect our passion and purpose.
Rev. Fred Day, General Secretary
General Commission on Archives and History (GCAH)
By understanding the past, GCAH helps envision the future!
Women's History Month in the News.
NEW YORK (UMNS) - Women in The United Methodist Church often draw inspiration from those
who have helped pave the way for them, from historical figures to more recent groundbreakers like
Bishop Leontine T. C. Kelly, the denomination's first African-American female bishop. Even today,
however, clergy and laywomen are challenged simply because of their gender. A few women share
their thoughts for Women's History Month. Linda Bloom has the story featuring historical perspective
from Fred Day.
File photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS
United Methodist Bishop Leontine T. C. Kelly preaches during the first reunion of the former Central Jurisdiction of the
Methodist Church, a racially segregated church structure, in College Park, Georgia., in 2004. Kelly, who died in 2012, was
elected in 1984 as the denomination's first African-American woman bishop.
Make History Legible!
Here is invitation to help. GCAH has 43,000 album pages of
mission work from the past century on its website
(catalog.gcah.org/omeka/) Those album pages hold a total of over
100,000 images. Within the next few weeks it will begin a
crowd-sourcing project where participants are invited to help
transcribe the handwritten captions for the images. This will
make the individual images searchable on the web. How can you
become a participant in the great transcription challenge? You'll
need an internet connection, some patience as you learn how to read century-old handwriting, and your
competitive spirit as you log the number of pages you've edited and compare it to your friends' and
family's. Watch for the announcement for the site and program coming soon.
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, 2012
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 active engagement, the past pointing to purpose, the DNA that makes us who we are, forming
how we live-into the future.
Please visit http://gcah.org/resources/heritage-sunday-2017 to download the resources!
UPDATED DOCUMENT ARCHIVING & PRESERVATION BEST PRACTICES
In our offices, local churches and on our computers we are faced everyday with the question, what
should I keep and what can I toss or delete?
The United Methodist Church has strong policies in place on keeping historical records as well as
records which enable us to be a transparent and responsible organization.
The Retention Guideline series created by the General Commission on Archives and History, as part
of its disciplinary responsibility, helps to answer that question for the local church, the annual
conference, our general agencies and episcopal offices.
The latest edition of the Guidelines Series is now available on the GCAH website. The guidelines
point out some of the most important records to keep as well as records which need to kept only for a
little while and then can be disposed. These guidelines should be used by the episcopal offices and
general agencies and are serious resources for the local church and annual conference.
Visit http://gcah.org/resources/guidelines-and-publications and you'll see all the options on the left hand
side. If you have questions, please feel free to contact GCAH at firstname.lastname@example.org.
United Methodist Almanac Honors Women's History Month
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 March 10th on Harriet Tubman:
Abolitionist, spy, Underground Railroad conductor, nurse, war hero, and activist, Harriet Tubman was born in
Maryland in 1821 as the daughter of slaves. At 13, she intervened to help a runaway slave; the injury she received
as punishment caused her blackouts the rest of her life.
In 1827, John Russwurm and the Reverend Mr. Samuel Cornish began to publish Freedom's Journal, the
first Black newspaper in the U.S. As a result, more and more slaves were taking the risk of fleeing and going North.
Tubman herself escaped to Philadelphia in 1849. She found work at a hotel, and began earning money that would
support her efforts to bring slaves North. During the next ten years, she made nineteen trips and freed 300 slaves,
earning her the nickname, "Moses." She helped John Brown plan the raid on Harper's Ferry in October, 1859.
In 1862, she agreed to serve the Union Army, and worked as a spy, scout, and nurse.
In 1863, she led a gun boat expedition along the Combahee River during which nearly 800 slaves were
brought to safety. Later, she was also active in the fight for women's suffrage. The Harriet Tubman
Home for Indigent and Aged Negroes was started in 1896.
As a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Tubman was grounded in
her faith. The actions she took, she said, were revealed to her by God through divine dreams and
omens. When once she needed money for some elderly people, she asked the Lord where she might
find help. Directed by God to a man in New York, the man told her the Lord was mistaken in directing
her there. Tubman remained in that office until she left, hours later, with triple the amount she had
asked for. Tubman chose to work persistently for justice. She once said, "I think there's a many a
slaveholder'll get to Heaven. They don't know no better. They acts up to the light they have."
We can celebrate her as a woman who made it her life's business to live up to the light she had.