The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

November 12, 2012

Frankie Meyer: Churches have records worthy of protection

By Frankie Meyer
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — Last July, St. John's United Church of Christ in Springfield had a burglary. Although the building had damage such as broken doors, the loss that was most mourned by the members and the community was the theft of a thick, leather-bound book filled with the church's history since its formation in 1887.

Some of the records were of marriages, births, baptisms, funerals and confirmations. The early records were contained in a book, which was written in the native language of its founding members Ñ German. Until 1924, one of the church's weekly services was held in German and the other was held in English.

Many of the members throughout the years have been active in church groups. The old book had records of the groups and the people who were active in them. Some examples were the Ladies Aid Society, Friendship Circle, Women's Guild, Fidelia Group, Quilters Circle, 50/50 Class and Men's Brotherhood.

Since its formation, the church has had 11 pastors. Information about the preachers was also contained in the records.

Other information in the old book was about changes in the church affiliation over the past 150 years. After the German Evangelical movement merged in 1934 with the German Reformed movement, the church became known as the German Evangelical and Reformed Church. In 1957, when the Congregational Church and Christian Church merged, it became the United Church of Christ.

What historical records does your church or synagogue have? In addition to church history, many religious institutions maintain records of its graveyard.

Are the records compiled in a large book, or perhaps a set of books? If so, you have a precious historical resource that could easily meet the same demise as the records of St. John's Church. Other dangers, such as fires and storms, could destroy the records, too.

If there is only one set of the records, encourage your congregation to undertake a project to scan the pages and save them to DVD. Those DVDs could then be given to members as well as local historical societies, museums, genealogy societies and public libraries. Archivists also recommend that a second paper copy be made and stored at a different location.

Update on Barry County Museum: Volume 18 of "Lifetime of Memories, Voices of Barry County" has been published. Narrators are Jim Bower, Mabel (Taylor) Hilburn and Don Myers. A book signing by the narrators will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday at the museum.

At that time the staff will hold an open house and several vendors will sell holiday gifts. For more information, call 417-847-1640 or email

Suggestions or queries? Write Frankie Meyer, 509 N. Center St., Plainfield, IN 46168, or email frankie