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For churchgoers, treasures from the 'family album'

“We’re the family album of The United Methodist Church,” said the Rev. Alfred T. Day III, the top executive of Archives and History since 2014.

Like any good family album, the archives provide a tangible connection to previous generations, a reminder of some great vacation spots and a source of comfort in changing times.

The agency works closely with Drew University's Methodist collection, which officially owns Wesley's last letter, and shares the same vault space as Archives and History.

The agency’s collection of conference journals includes clergy members’ official obituaries and online index of the clergy obituaries  that goes back to the 1780s.

Archives and History also has obituaries for many of U.S. Methodism’s missionaries as well as the reports they filed about their work. Those reports often include key events such as the birth of children, as well as accounts of the trials they endured for their faith.

Archives and History offers a traveler’s guide to the denomination’s Heritage Landmarks. General Conference, the global denomination’s top lawmaking assembly, has designated these 46 sites as “specifically related to significant events, developments, or personalities in the overall history of The United Methodist Church or its antecedents.”

The sites include Barratt’s Chapel and Museum in Frederica, Delaware, the scene of the first meeting between Methodism pioneers Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury, and a cluster of sites in Deadwood, South Dakota, where a Methodist preacher brought the gospel to gold prospectors.

Heritage Landmarks are not limited to the United States. They also include the College of West Africa in Monrovia, Liberia; the Mary Johnston Hospital in Manila, the Philippines; and Old Mutare Mission in Zimbabwe.

Is your local congregation undergoing a time of change or struggle? In times of difficulty or uncertainty, church records can be a comfort.

The Rev. Alfred T. Day III, the top executive of Archives and History since 2014, suggests that churches not wait for major anniversaries to display the photographs and other artifacts that tell the story of their ministry. Instead, he recommends that congregations assemble he calls a “Wall of Wonder” when times are tough.

Such mementos help people of faith see God at work over the long haul.

It’s a perspective John Wesley would appreciate. His devout wish to end legalized slavery in North America took almost a century to come to fruition.

The British Empire did not outlaw the slave trade until 1807, 16 years after Wesley’s death. The fight over slavery actually split Wesley’s movement in the United States in 1844. The United States finally officially abolished slavery with the ratification of the Constitution’s 13th Amendment on Dec. 6, 1865.

Even that did not settle the dispute among Wesley’s followers, but the Methodist Church ultimately reunited in 1939.

“I think what history helps us to do is to take a longer view,” Day said. “Look at what we’ve come through in the past. Why should we think that God’s grace isn’t going to lead us into the future?”

Adapted, Heather Hahn, multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service.

One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the General Administration Fund implements trustworthy administrative oversight, supports the legislative processes of the church and curates The United Methodist Church’s rich history. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the General Administration Fund apportionment at 100 percent.

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