Writing Congregational Histories : Introduction

Hear introduction by Erma Jean Loveland
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Read introduction by Erma Jean Loveland

Jesse P. Sewell on brush arbor meetings

Hear audio from Dwight Robarts
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Read Dwight Robarts' narrative

Why Write a Congregational History?

The answer to this question lies in two key phrases: what is a congregation and what are its functions .

Churches, as a whole, provide sources of meaning and hope for more Americans than any other single type of volunteer organization. A congregation however, is a unique group that shares joys and sorrows, baptisms, marriages and funerals - the landmark happenings of life.

Each unique congregation is a cherished place, a place that has remained the same throughout turmoil, joy, crisis, change, blessing which comes into all people's lives day by day.

Oldest Form of Human Activity
Congregational functions are one of the oldest and most enduring forms of human activity. Throughout both the Old and New Testament the stories of groups of people brought together to worship have been told. And we know about them because they have been written down and passed along through the generations.

Written Words Interpret Congregational Behaviors
As common place as our day-by-day congregational behavior may seem to us, unless it is described and interpreted by current observers, much of it will be lost forever. Do you remember brush arbor meetings?

Brush arbor meetings were one of the great social events of the year. Everyone knew what a brush arbor meeting would be. Ask a young person today what a brush arbor meeting is and see if you get a glimmer of recognition. Within our own lifetime, there have been similar changes.

A written congregational narrative provides a sense of accomplishment and new perspectives of these deeds. By putting these deeds and figures together in a meaningful way, the assembly gets a better picture of the congregational identity, of what the goals of the church leadership are, and of the accomplishments of the year. The historical narrative will provide a plumb line which is anchored in the past to chart the future.

Hillcrest pulpit minister, Dwight Robarts, in one of the last Sundays of each year lists the accomplishments of the congregation for that year, among which may be mission trips, workshops and community outreach to the Hillcrest neighborhood. This tally is available on the tape that was recorded at the time of the sermon, in Dwight's notes, in the primary sources from which he drew his information, and in the memory of his hearers.

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