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Documenting Congregational History

Q. We are an emerging Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregation and want to document our history and our growth. Can you suggest some guidelines regarding what should be saved? We are three years old and have saved our newsletters, letters to the editor written by our members, all the Sunday bulletins, many pictures, pertinent newspaper articles, etc. Our concern is that the tail (tale?) is beginning to wag the dog. What will people 50 years from now wish we had saved?

A. John Hurley, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Director of Communications, suggests the following resources:

The Congregational Handbook has information on maintaining records and archives.

Contact the UUA Information Assistant at info [at] uua [dot] org for a copy of the booklet, Preserving Congregational Archives. This booklet is included in the Congregational Handbook and has guidelines to help congregations with document retention and preservation.

The UUA sponsors an email discussion list, UU-Cong-Archives, on the topic of congregational archives.

Hurley emphasizes that it’s crucial to have support from the congregation. “It is too often the case that attention to archives and history can be lost in the myriad day-to-day details of running a congregation, and this is a loss that many congregations come to regret.”

About the Author

  • Donald E. Skinner was the founding editor of the InterConnections newsletter for congregational leaders and a senior editor of UU World from 1998 until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa, Kansas.

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