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Local church history is a vital part of our heritage. However, local church historians often work without adequate funding or recognition. The job is often thankless and lonely. The Annual Conference commission has the critical role of offering encouragement, training, and fellowship for local church historians.

Frequent communication with the local church is vital! Tell historians about resources that will help them do their job. Each quadrennium, Cokesbury publishes Guidelines for the Local Church Historian. You may wish to purchase a quantity to sell to local churches. The General Commission publishes a number of resources specifically for the local church, and depends on the Annual Conference commission to help publicize them.

The commission should also serve as an information clearinghouse for local church historians. When you learn of helpful books, videos, or magazine articles, save the information. Interpreter magazine often includes a church history “Idea Mart” column; since historians may not see every issue, you may want to keep a reference file at the archives.

The Annual Conference commission should also try to work with pastors, particularly in those churches where there is no historian or Committee on Records and History. Perhaps you can meet with pastors at their district meetings and explain the local church’s disciplinary responsibilities for archives and history. It is important the local churches know that you count on them for vital information and records.

The local church historian looks to the Annual Conference commission for skills training. Plan workshops that address such topics as archival management, celebrating a church anniversary, oral history, women’s history, disaster prevention, writing a local church history, and research techniques. Many Annual Conference commissions schedule workshops at the district level to encourage maximum attendance with minimal travel.

Consider publishing booklets or articles on issues of special concern in your Annual Conference (such as how to preserve records in a humid climate or where to locate genealogical records in your region). Review ¶247.5 in The Book of Discipline which lists the local church historian’s duties; this may help you decide training and informational emphases. Remember, too, that the Annual Conference commission’s participation is required if a local church is interested in applying for Historic Site status as outlined in ¶1712.1a.

Workshops provide opportunities for fellowship and communication. Other events that help build community are tours of Historic Sites or social events at the conference archives (or at locations in several districts). Encourage phone calls, letters, and personal visits between conference commission members and local church historians. When possible, commission members should attend local church heritage events in their districts.

Participation in the wider historical community is also important. Invite local church historians to join your conference, area, and/or jurisdictional historical society (or similar organization), the Historical Society of The United Methodist Church, and local groups such as genealogical societies and historic preservation groups.

By encouraging local churches to recover, preserve, study, and celebrate their history, you provide an invaluable service to the whole church. The history of the local church is the foundation of our heritage, and the Annual Conference commission’s support of that history is indispensable.