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The Secretary of the Annual Conference is usually responsible for assigning and collecting memoirs. However, the Annual Conference Commission on Archives and History can help ensure accurate and historically valuable memoirs by urging the Annual Conference to adopt official guidelines for memoirs. These guidelines may then be published in the Annual Conference journal or circulated to authors of memoirs.

What is a Memoir?

A memoir is an account of each deceased individual who has served the church as a clergyperson, clergy spouse, or lay member of the Annual Conference. The account must be accurate without being dry, and both brief and comprehensive.

The memoir is not designed to be either a eulogy or a memorial sermon. Yet, when created skillfully and sympathetically, this brief and specialized biographical account can be a document suitable both as an historical record and a synoptic portrayal of personality and spirit.

Once the memoir is published, persons will use it as an historical resource. They will expect it to be authentic and accurate.

Sources of Information:

  • The family is the most important source. An interview in person or by letter can provide the most detailed and interesting data. Be sure to verify dates and places as necessary.
  • Another source is the newspaper account. An obituary is especially valuable if the deceased has died in a retirement area far from the Annual Conference.
  • The Conference Secretary or the Annual Conference office may have pertinent information on file about conference clergy members.
  • Conference journals from past years generally contain lists of appointments for all clergy members, along with academic and honorary degrees earned by the deceased.
  • The conference or general church Board of Pensions may have information.
  • If the deceased lived in a retirement home, the office will have biographical information as well as names and addresses of family members.
  • Friends of the deceased may be able to give information; however, this material should be used selectively, with careful attention to accuracy.

When the memoir is completed, it is wise to ask the next of kin to verify the contents before publication.

The Substance of a Memoir:

The following items are usually considered essential elements of the memoir. Although the order of these items may vary, the arrangement presented does suggest that there is reference value in having a basically uniform pattern.

  • Personal (early period) The complete name of the deceased; date and place of birth; the name of father and mother (including mother’s maiden name in parentheses).
  • Educational a. Schools and colleges attended with the appropriate years noted. b. Degrees and honors received with the date of each.
  • Ecclesiastical a. Dates of baptism, conversion, first church membership, call to ministry. b. Dates of ordination. c. Appointments served, with names of cities, states, and conferences as necessary for clarity. d. Special areas of service and responsibility; notable accomplishments and recognition given; service on conference and community boards and agencies. e. Retirement date (if deceased had retired); residence following retirement; unusual services rendered following retirement.
  • Personal (late period) a. Date of marriage; name of spouse (including maiden name); names of children (including married names and addresses); date of spouse’s death if widowed; address of surviving spouse or nearest relative. b. Special lifelong interests and avocations. c. Date and circumstances of death. d. Date and place of funeral; place of burial; names of officiating clergy.

The Style of a Memoir:

*The style of every memoir should reflect proper English usage. Simplicity and good taste are essential. There is absolutely no place in the memoir for sentimentality, triteness, the so-called “flowery style,” sermonizing, or an excessive use of adjectives.

*The completed memoir should be typed, double spaced on good quality paper. The name of deceased, as commonly known, should appear at the top of the page in capital letters and underscored once. The original copy should go to the conference Secretary. Give one photocopy to the printer of the conference journal; another to the family; and a final copy should be retained by the writer for his or her own file. The memoir should be completed in final form and all copies sent to the proper places within one month after the death of the subject. Immediacy helps accuracy!

*If the conference necrologist or historian writes the memoirs, his or her name should not appear as author because that person’s position and responsibility are a matter of conference record. However, if a family member, pastor, or friend writes a memoir, it should be signed by the writer, whose name should appear immediately following the memoir in the journal.

*A good quality black and white photograph should be given to printer to be published in the conference journal. The local source for the photograph is the family or the church where the deceased worked. The best place for the photograph is next to the memoir. If another arrangement is used, there should appear, directly below the photograph, the name of the deceased and a notation indicating the page number of the memoir. If the treasured photograph has been loaned by the family, take care to return the photo, unharmed, as soon as possible after the journal is printed.