Methodist Church

Got a Methodist question? Go to UMC Archives and History

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MADISON (New Jersey) – What is a circuit-rider? If you don’t know, you can find the answer at www. gcah.org Just click on the “UMC History” link.

The United Methodist Commission on Archives and History is beefing up its website not only to help answer random queries, but also to provide quicker access of the denomination’s historical information to scholars, church bodies and the person in the pew.

“We claim that it’s probably the richest collection for research on global Methodism in the world,” said the Rev Robert Williams, who became the commission’s Chief Executive in 2006.

Located for 26 years on the bucolic campus of Drew University in New Jersey, the Commission on Archives and History oversees denominational treasures in its 172-sq-m space.

Upstairs, a reading room with wireless Internet access offers materials for scholars and other interested readers to peruse.

Downstairs, on two underground storeys, are roughly 3.2 km long of records, most of which can be accessed within 10 or 15 minutes through the database.

The collection is not all paper and celluloid. Numerous ceramic busts of Methodism founder John Wesley – the type of which used to adorn mantelpieces in British Methodist homes – can be found, along with Wesley’s death mask and reproductions of a teapot made for him by the Wedgewoods.

To the Rev Williams and the staff at Archives and History, it is all about reclaiming the denomination’s past to point it towards the future. “We just don’t do history for nostalgia’s sake,” he said, going on to quote Albert Outler, the 20th-century United Methodist theologian: “Nostalgia is mortgaging the future for the sake of the past.”

Research requests
During the past year, the commission received more than 1,000 research requests and hosted 64 registered users of the archives, including 34 “long-term” researchers who stayed for three or more days or travelled a long distance to be there.

Information seekers range from high school students to senior scholars, according to Mr L. Dale Patterson, the Archivist-records Administrator.

Want to know how to preserve old photos and documents? Archives has some tips. Church members can also learn how to preserve fragile items, record oral histories and build a homemade humidifier through the archival leaflet series.

Taking a vacation? Must-see places are listed in “A Traveller’s Guide to the Heritage Landmarks of the United Methodist Church”. Interested in listening to history in the making? Archives now has digitised versions of 80 one-hour shows from a 1960s radio programme called “Night Call” – one of the first radio-talk programmes. More than 600 programmes can be found in the United Methodist audio archives at http:// audio.umc.org

Looking for a photo? An extensive collection includes a quarter million images of mission work dating from 1890 to 1925. Queries from local congregations often fall into two broad categories, said Mr Patterson. For the local church, one of the most frequently asked questions is what type of records does a local church need to keep.

The other category deals with what materials are available to help churches celebrate their history.

The commission recognises serious research through a series of grants and awards. To expand its focus beyond the United States, a new grant called “The World is My Parish”, will provide US$1,000 (S$1,510) to US$3,000 for researching the history of global Methodism.– United Methodist News Service.

Linda Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

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53 United Methodists serving new US Congress

WASHINGTON – Fifty-three United Methodists are serving in the 111th Congress, a decline of eight from the last three Congresses, but the denomination still ranks third in total congressional membership.

While there are seven newly-elected United Methodists in the 111th Congress, compared to five in the 110 th Congress, an unusual number of Methodist members retired, died in office or were defeated in re-election, resulting in the overall reduction.

The new Congress convened on Jan 6. Unlike 2006, when all newly-elected United Methodists were Democrats, five of this year’s new United Methodist members are Republicans while two are Democrats.

Nine United Methodists are serving in the Senate, a decline of four from the previous Congress. The most prominent of them is former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton of New York, who is the Secretary of State in the Obama Administration.

Congressional United Methodists are split almost equally between the two parties, with 27 Democrats and 26 Republicans. – United Methodist News Service.

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