Is Congregational History Worth the Effort?

Perhaps you’re uneasy. Your congregation has been around for half a century or more, and little or none of its history has been recorded. Or the history is well done but some years out of date.

A congregational history is more than “nice to do”—it is useful. It is a one-stop information source for a packet for staff candidates or for a brochure to attract new members. It’s a great thing to hand a reporter who is doing a story about you. Knowing your congregation’s role in movements like abolition, war resistance, civil rights, and marriage equality can be a source of pride for your members.

And producing a history is not a daunting, monumental chore if approached right: form a task force, gather some resources, set a timeline for completion, and begin.

“What resources?” you may ask. Here are two.

1. New Directory of Online Congregational Histories

When you take on writing a congregational history, you’re likely to wonder how others have done this. This information is readily available.

The Meadville Lombard Theological School has an online guide page to UU congregations in the MidAmerica Region.

Map of UUA regions in the United States for Online Congregational History search tool at Meadville Lombard Theological School

Scroll down to the map of UUA Regions.

Then click MidAmerica Region in the list to the right of the map.

Scroll down the page and click the name of the state where the congregation is located. If your congregation’s history is not included, please notify Sarah Levine:

You will find that MidAmerica congregations have recorded their histories in a variety of ways that will stir your creativity—and hopefully your competitiveness.

The members of the MidAmerica Region History and Heritage Committee compiled the directory. It has received praise from the leadership of the UU Studies Network (UUSN, formerly the UU History & Heritage Society). The directory has advanced the Network’s project of gathering all congregational histories in the UUA.

We also have a small amount of information about offline congregational histories and contact information for congregational historians and archivists. Email inquiries to

That brings us to the second resource.

2. New Help Available from the UUSN Congregational History Project

The UUSN offers Tools for Congregational History on its website. In addition, UUSN Board Member Dan McKanan, a faculty member at Harvard Divinity School, has a graduate research assistant, Erin Aslami, to shepherd the UUSN Congregational History Project, which includes an archival component. Erin is excited to help build an international network of Unitarian Universalist congregational historians and archivists who are committed to truth telling and delving into the anti-racist, counter-oppressive elements of historical and archival work. Energized and inspired by the MidAmerica Committee’s work on the MidAmerica Survey of Congregational Histories, Erin and Dan are looking forward to connecting with everyone involved.

Their immediate goals are

  1. to add archival information for each MidAmerica congregation and
  2. to be put in touch with any contacts in other regions who are interested in cataloging the histories and archives of their own UU congregations.

Erin and Dan welcome inquiries for more information about the project and would be glad to help you get involved. Please get in touch with them if you know of anyone in the UUA who is active in archiving and history writing:

Erin Aslami’s email:

Dan McKanan’s email:

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By now, many of us have honed our electronic communication skills as the pandemic wanes and the land turns green. It’s not a bad time to get busy with our congregational histories.