Good morning! I want to briefly tell you what the Archives is, what we have that can be a resource to you, and ways we can serve you.
The Archives here in the Graham Center gathers documents from organizations and individuals which provide an ongoing reminder of the lives and ministry through which the gospel has been spread.
An archives can be many different things and serve very different functions. An archives can be a place to put administrative files when it's hard to decide that you don't need them any longer - so an archives can enable you to postpone a decision. Or an archives can be a monument to a person, agency, or idea. An archives can even be a means to clean up the past. If you only save those things which record successes, achievements and faithful work, while at the same time eliminating anything which tells the other half of the story, you have taken a big step toward removing from your organization's memory the complete story and instead provided a way for those in the future to misunderstand what really happened. An archives can also be a place to store revered valuable documents - those with important signatures or photographs of major events in the life of your institution - not with any intention that they be used, but just to hold on to them for sentimental reasons.
None of these seem to be particularly Christian reasons for preserving documents which record the past. Rather, what an archives can be, what we hope we as an archives are is a record of what people and institutions have planned, decided, observed and done. Long after those who did the work and made the choices have moved on, documents tell the story of what happened, who did it, how they went about it and what motivated them. Those items then serve as encouragers, motivators, advisors, prophets perhaps reminding us of God's faithfulness or warning us against a course of action. We forgiven ones have nothing to hide, so an archives should compile a record not only of our successes but our stumblings and be another account of God's gracious work among and through us. And for future generations, it helps them to know about people like Mother Consuella York, Tom Skinner, and Montrose Waite.
While I generally describe what we collect and then highlight a few of our holdings, one of my colleagues will be passing out two items: a small booklet which lists some of those collections which include information on the African American church, and secondly, a one-page handout which summarizes some of the things I'm telling you now. We at the Graham Center Archives gather those documents which record a representative part of the history of how North American nondenominational Protestants have spread the gospel, both in this country and around the world. In the archival world, documents are not just limited to pieces of paper, but instead are any items which contain information. They might include correspondence, reports, statistics, memos, posters, photographs, diaries, audio tapes, videotapes, personnel files, sermon notes or transcripts, computer files, promotional pieces, and on and on. From organizations those documents record their institutional activity: planning and deciding, promoting their work, evangelizing, establishing mission stations, and so forth. As you might guess, these documents are more than just incorporation papers and honorary certificates, but also the everyday stuff created in the course of carrying out their ministry. Similarly, from people we collect those things which record the various things they have done and observed.
Our core collection is the records of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, documenting his mass evangelism crusades in this country and around the world. On the missions side, we collect the records of mission agencies and missionaries: Overseas Missionary Fellowship, working in Southeast Asia; Africa Inland Mission, which operates in East Africa; and Latin America Mission, serving primarily in Costa Rica and Colombia. Notable missionaries whose papers we have include Jonathan Goforth, Elizabeth Elliot, and John and Betty Stam. Among the evangelistic organizations contributing their records are Bill Glass Ministries, Prison Fellowship, and Youth for Christ. Our staff also do oral history interviews in order to fill gaps where no paper records are available and to get first-hand accounts of life in evangelistic or missionary ministry.
The Graham Center Archives has made a concerted effort to gather those documents that record the contribution and activity of the African American church. Among these are the records of Voice of Calvary Ministries and oral histories with John and Vera Perkins and some of their colleagues in Voice of Calvary and Mendenhall Ministries. Matthew asked me to highlight those materials we have received since the last Summit meeting at which we spoke in 1988. Among those are the records of the Detroit Afro-American Mission and the Atlanta 88 Congress on Evangelizing Black America. Oral histories we've done include those with Charles Dawson, Michael Flowers, Crawford Loritts, Bill Pannell, Matthew Parker, Tom Skinner, Vernon Watford, Ernie Wilson, Beverly Yates and Consuella York.
Our primary goal is for these documents to be used. We don't collect them to just have them, to gather dust as some people may envision an archives or to display as trophies. We work hard to help classes and church groups and curious visitors and authors or journalists to find what they're looking for and get the information they need.
We not only collect but also want to nurture an awareness and appreciation of our heritage. For the past three years, we have with the College's Minority Affairs Office co-sponsored the African American Church History Lecture. Our speakers have included Larry Murphy from the Institute of Black Religious Research on his use of oral history to record verbal transmission of traditions in the black church. Sheree DuPree described her search for documentation on Black Pentecostal churches. This past February Rev. Jeremiah Wright from here in Chicago stimulated us with his address The Invisible Giant, focusing on the history of the African American church since World War II, touching on the social transformation of the church and how Gospel music illustrates those changes, and the African heritage which continues to express itself in the Black church and community. Response to our first two tries was disappointingly light, but with input and direction from local Black church leaders, our most recent meeting brought in over 250 people, many from our immediate community.
You may want information from one of our collections, and we would be happy to try to help you find documents that will serve you purposes, whether photographs, a recording or a letter.
More importantly if you represent an organization, we can assist you in establishing your own in-house archives. The Archives here is unable to collect everything relevant to the history of North American non-denominational missions and evangelism; in fact, space limitations prevent us from accepting any organizational collections at this time. That does not mean, however, that those things we do not collect are unimportant or unworthy of being preserved for others to use. We'd like to help you preserve those materials which document your history. While that may involve identifying another archives where you can place your materials, we can also consider with you how best to establish a simple program which will ensure that the record of your agency will be available to those who follow you, and they can benefit from your activity and experience.
To you as individuals, we would be very interested in those of your personal papers which document your evangelistic or missionary ministry. And especially in cases where little such documentation exists, we might want to conduct an oral history interview with you. Several of our staff are recording interviews with Summit participants while they are here this week. In the future, we may contact others of you to arrange a similar interview. We hope you'll say "Yes."
Perhaps something I've mentioned has suggested an idea that you'd like to discuss further. Perhaps you have a question about materials we already have. We welcome your inquiries and would be glad to discuss any of these things with you. If you don't get a chance to talk with us during the Summit, feel free to call, write or e-mail us at:
Wheaton, IL 60187