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Setting Our Sights

At an early meeting of the Editorial Committee it might be well to discuss what kind of history will best meet the needs of the current situation.  Some local church histories are lengthy, scholarly works that are more attractive to students than to church members.

Others are in the form of a picture book with a minimum amount of text, but with numerous prints from the early days of the church to the current year.  Then there is the popular type of history that moves along very rapidly.  It gathers and marshals the most important events of the church’s history and presents them in as entertaining a fashion as possible.

Another type of history simply finds a previous history of the church and, using numerous pictures, adds to it the events that have taken place since the last history was published.  Some histories present a minimal amount of historical facts, but dwell mainly on the current events and programs of the church with a view to appealing to the passing visitors.

Which of the above types you use will depend on your final aim or goal.  Is the story of the church to be a scholarly book written to preserve the history of a powerful force for good in the community?  Is it to be a challenging work to catch the eye of a possible future member, or is it for new members to give them a better idea of what the church is all about?  Is it a pleasant anniversary piece, much like a souvenir?  Is it a book that will appeal to the casual reader?  In other words, why are you writing this history?

The amount of money the Committee has to spend will also play a part in what type of history is being written.  Obviously, a long scholarly work will probably be far more expensive than a short popular history.  A picture book may be the most reasonable of all.  What kind of history does your Editorial Committee wish to produce?  It would be good to discuss this question at the first meeting of the Committee.  By the second meeting, each member of the Committee will have had time to test the feelings of some of the church members and to bring their reactions to the Committee for analysis.  Also, the chairperson, secretary, or another suitable member of the Committee might well be assigned the task of gathering a group of histories of other churches for study and suggestions.  Local historical societies and Annual Conference historical depositories will probably have a selection of various types of local church histories which they would make available to the Committee for review.

Eventually, a goal or aim must be set and a course of activity laid out to reach that goal.  By this time also a writer or editor-author should have been chosen so that he or she may have input into what kind of history will best suit the needs of the local church or community.