Beacon Street Diary

March 31, 2006

This year marks the Bicentennial of the 1806 Haystack Prayer Meeting in Williamstown, Massachusetts, an event which has long been celebrated as the birth of American foreign missions. Down through the years, the story of that prayer meeting has often been told, but not always accurately. For example, it has sometimes been said that at that meeting, the five Williams College students all dedicated themselves to be foreign missionaries. My research indicates that that statement is incorrect in two ways.

1. The agreement the students reached at that haystack was to send the gospel overseas to Asia's non-Christians. While Samuel Mills Jr. had already dedicated himself to be a foreign missionary, that doesn’t seem to have been the case with the other four students at that meeting. However, growing out of that 1806 prayer meeting and subsequent ones, Mills and other Williams students formed the Brethren in 1808, all of whose members were required to be committed to taking the gospel overseas themselves personally. That group has sometimes been called the "First Foreign Missionary Society in America." In 1810 the Brethren was transferred to Andover Theological Seminary and subsequently the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was formed.

2. At the Haystack Prayer Meeting, one of the five students, Harvey Loomis, disagreed with the other four. Loomis thought it was premature to send the gospel overseas to Asia, as he feared those missionaries would be murdered. So, he neither supported the idea nor joined the other four students at the haystack in their prayers for foreign missions.

Do you have questions to ask or thoughts to share about the Haystack Prayer Meeting? This blog can be a good forum for that.

-Rev. Dr. Doug Showalter


March 31, 2006

Interested in helping the Congregational Library? Have some free time? Would you like to learn more about our collections and the Library and Archives? Want to create displays, help with events, shelve books, review materials, organize files, greet and welcome visitors, catalog books? We have volunteer opportunities available.

Contact us by calling 617-523-0470 x 229. If you have even an hour a week, we have a job for you.


March 30, 2006

Dear Congregational Christian Historical Society Friends:

Winter is slowly rolling away and it is almost time for spring meeting. This year we will host Prof. David Stowe, a long-time friend of CCHS and author of a wonderful book on music and religion, How Sweet the Song: Music in the Spiritual Lives of Americans, published by Harvard University Press in 2004. Dr. Stowe is Professor of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures and director of American Studies at Michigan State University. He will be speaking to us about the history of Congregational hymnody. It’s sure to be an engaging and informative time for all—we may even sing!

The event is planned for Thursday, May 11, 2006 and will be held at the New Hampshire Conference of the United Church of Christ in Concord. The schedule for the evening and directions to the conference center are enclosed. A very inexpensive $15.00 registration fee will cover the cost of dinner, during which we will present our annual Guptill and Fagley awards, and the lecture. The deadline for registrations is Friday, May 5, 2006.

Would you please also take this opportunity to support CCHS with a donation? A good many of you have already sent in annual gifts, and we are very grateful for these. But we still depend on the generosity of our members to keep the work going and to put on a meeting that we can all be proud of. Even if you are not able to come to the meeting, we'd appreciate your support. With a gift of $25 or more we would be happy to send a copy of Dr. Stowe's presentation.

We're very glad for all of our members, and look forward to seeing you in May. We're hoping for beautiful weather, a stimulating lecture, a great turnout, and time to renew old acquaintances and make new ones. We'll look forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely,
Margaret Bendroth
CCHS Archivist/Secretary

Please send all registrations to CCHS at 14 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108. Thanks so much! Additionally, there is a basic review of this spring's program at the CCHS website.


March 29, 2006

We've added a Frappr (Friend mapper) map today. Please click on the map title (Congregational) if you would like to add yourself to the map. We'd like to see where you are.


March 24, 2006

The mailing for the Annual Meeting of the Congregational Christian Historical Society went out today. We hope that you will join us on May 11, 2006 in Concord, NH for the business meeting, dinner, Guptill and Fagley Awards and to hear Professor David W. Stowe's lecture, "Psalms and Hymns in the Lives of American Congregationalists".

Registration and donation forms are enclosed in the mailing. Information will also be posted on the CCHS website.


March 24, 2006

I received the following email from the ATLA list I'm on and I thought I'd pass this along.

I am writing you on behalf of Dr. Peter Kuzmic who is in Croatia right now preparing for the dedication of the new library and learning center at Evangelical Theological Seminary. Upon its debut, this will be the largest evangelical library serving Eastern Europe. With graduates in ministry in over 50 nations throughout the world, ETS has become a strategic center for equipping Christian leaders throughout the post-communist world.

The current library is confined to 4,500 square feet. Upon completion of the new facility, we will have expanded to 20,000 square feet. We are receiving book donations by the thousands in Croatia. As I write this, I have just received an unexpected shipment of an additional 30 boxes of theological books.

We are in desperate need of librarians to help catalog books and get the new library in working order over the summer months. We would gladly welcome any able-bodied person with library experience to assist us. We would be happy to provide any volunteers with food and housing during their stay. I ask you to prayerfully consider how you might be able to help.

Please respond to: Dr. Peter Kuzmic, 130 Essex St., S. Hamilton, MA 01982. Phone: 987-646-4085 Email: pkuzmic@gcts.edu

Thank you very much for your time and consideration,

Justin J. Evans, New Europe Vision and Freeman Barton, Goddard Library


March 23, 2006

Peggy's lecture at Old South Church from March 19th is available as a podcast. There is more information about Old South and its current on-going Lenten series at their website under Looking Ahead.


March 20, 2006

In preparation for a new educational series we are putting together, the staff have put together a survey for people interested in participating.

We also created a Frappr map. We will be adding the map to our blog soon.


March 17, 2006

The Winter 2006 Bulletin was mailed out today. This issue includes articles by Joyce Hollyday, "On the Heels of Freedom", and Brenda Billips Square, "Amistad Collections Safe Following Hurricane Katrina", updates about the Library, news for CCHS, and the list of new books added to the collection. We hope you enjoy it. The Bulletin will also be made available on our website soon.


March 16, 2006

"What do you do for a living?"
"I'm a librarian."

This is my standard answer unless I want to try to explain what an archivist is.

So, what is an archivist? In my case, it's someone who has gone to library school and specialized in caring for documents that were created by individuals or organizations. At the Congregational Library, that usually means ministers, charitable groups, churches, and missionaries. I also am responsible for preserving the items in my care. We are still pretty low-tech / low-cost, so our best bet is to house the records in acid-free containers, remove rusted (or potentially rusty) metal fasteners, and maintain a stable storage environment.

I am a department of one, like many in my field, a lone arranger. I'm responsible for answering reference questions, processing new collections, creating guides for those collections, cataloging, preservation, talking to donors, educating / providing outreach for our constituents, collaborating with the rest of the library staff on projects, and other administrivia. It also happens I'm the de-facto web designer and primary IT support.

Interns - One of the perks of being a Boston repository is that I / we have the chance to host Simmons library school (GSLIS) interns. The past 12 months have been fantastic for us and I've managed 2 students every semester. Supervising a student is something I look forward to every spring and fall semesters. I enjoy mentoring new professionals. I was grateful when I was a student to have supportive internship environments and while I am here to teach them, they inevitably help clarify my work and/or catalyze doing a project I may not have thought to do on my own.

Projects: maintaining one's usefulness and sanity means coming up with projects that go beyond the average reference and processing work. My current log includes scanning our Image Collection (800+ photographs, etchings and drawings that do not have a textual collection), assisting the rest of the library staff with the next stage of weeding our collection, and supervising this semester's interns.

I haven't gotten past the Cs in the images: scanning and cataloging is tedious, but the results are fantastic. I'm in the midst of surveying the US history section to determine what books do not fit our needs and/or are so outdated, they do not serve any useful purpose. We have set up a book truck in the library with the fruits of our combined labors -- I saw a Winston Churchill biography yesterday -- and request a donation for those taken away. If anyone has any interest in the list we have, please let us know.

page from an illuminated BibleWith that, I will leave you with a snippet from an illuminated Bible that is in our collection.

 

- Cheers, Jess Steytler


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