Help Available for Congregational Historians

By Donald E. Skinner

Q. We are preparing position descriptions for many staff and committee positions at our church and wonder if anyone has anything on a church archivist or historian?

A. At First Unitarian Church of Cincinnati (227 members), which was gathered in 1830, the position of historian is in the bylaws, but the historian, Walter Herz, reports that the job is whatever the historian makes of it. Says Herz: "My job, as I see it, is to update the records periodically with significant events in the life of the church, and to keep our members informed about our heritage. I was fortunate that I succeeded others who had seen the importance of our voluminous but unorganized records and contacted the Cincinnati Historical Society (CHS)."

"With their advice and help, our complete files and records were transferred to the CHS, filed effectively and cross-referenced. There they sit today, available to our church and to the community for reference by historians, clergy, and others interested in the church and/or in the prominent people who populated its membership rolls throughout its notable history. I strongly urge you and others in the same position to contact your community or county historical society and solicit their advice and assistance. If your church dates to the 19th or early 20th century and your records are in reasonable condition, I can almost promise the historical society will be happy to work with you."

At the Unitarian Universalist Association, you may contact Information Assistant,, for information on preserving church archives and historical items.

About the Author

Donald E. Skinner

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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