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GCAH Launches “Local Church Historians School” Virtually

Featured GCAH Launches “Local Church Historians School” Virtually

The General Commission on Archives and History (GCAH) of The United Methodist Church is launching a Local Church Historian School in 2020 for church historians—or anyone interested in the story of their church. This initial offering includes 779 participants from around the world—all attending from the comfort of their email inbox.

“GCAH's work as an agency of the UMC is more than just historic preservation and records management; it’s also about equipping churches and conferences to find places where their respective histories intersect with current mission and ministry settings,” said the Rev. Alfred T. Day, General Secretary of GCAH. “It's about promoting the ethos and DNA that formed and shaped Methodists to spark ministries that changed hearts, lives and communities because of an experience with God's love in Jesus Christ.”

The Book of Discipline says states the Commission is “to encourage and assist the local churches in preserving their records, compiling their histories and celebrating their heritage.” This school provides United Methodists the opportunity to do just that. The need for this offering is clearly evidenced by the enthusiasm of nearly 800 registrants.

The Local Church Historian School (LCHS) curriculum covers a wide range of skills necessary to become a “complete” church historian. Participating congregations will benefit from a new consciousness of their heritage and legacy and be motivated to study their unique stories and proclaim it to those around them. 

LCHS is a 12-week long course that allows participants to move at their own pace through a series of exercises. Each week participants will receive reading material and an assignment(s) via email. They can then move at their own pace to get through the readings and complete the assignment—even if it takes them longer than 12 weeks. During the course, they will have access to an assigned moderator for any questions that might arise as well as access to a closed Facebook group with other course participants. Once completed, the participant will receive a certificate from GCAH.

“One thing our General Secretary Fred Day brought out the first year I was on the General Commission was that the GCAH exists to ‘promote and care for the historical interests of The United Methodist Church at every level,’” said the Rev. Duane Coates, GCAH Commission Member. “That means whether you’re part of a mega-church with 24,000 members or you’re one of the 24 members of the United Methodist Church in Leola, SD, the General Commission cares about your historical interests. By developing this course, which is now being accessed by United Methodists in 51 annual conferences in the jurisdictions and at least four of our seven Central Conferences, the General Church is better able to fulfill that mission and say that every one of our churches matter.”

This is the same school developed and offered by the Indiana Conference in the past, now updated, and being offered by the General Commission on Archives and History to any United Methodist church globally.

“One of the consistent challenges of ministry is how to put theory into local church practice.  This is true if you’re talking about evangelism, Christian education, social justice, or anything else—including church history,” said Rev. Christopher Shoemaker, volunteer director of the LCHS. “We are completely saturated with ideas, information, and ‘this worked for me’ testimonies. But at the end of the day, it has to work in our local ministry context—in our church, on our street. That’s the challenge. Dr. Richard Stowe, the father of the LCHS, accepted this challenge and forged the missing link between the irreplaceable, sacred stories of our local congregations and the wisdom and practices of the world’s great museums and libraries—focused through our own General Commission on Archives and History.  Sometimes our stories are triumphant.  Sometimes they are shameful.  But our stories matter.  Your story matters.”

“We hope this course will help local church leaders discover history as a usable tool—not for nostalgia sake, but for mission's sake, to re-invigorate churches by discovering the mission vision, energy and impetus that was at their beginning and use that to re-engage anew. We hope this course will help churches understand the history of the communities where they've been planted to better serve in their missional context,” said Day. 

The school begins on September 14, 2020. Although registration is now closed, those interested in future offerings of the course should contact