Memory Work:
A Guide for ELCA Congregational Archives and History

Writing a Congregational History

Suggested Topics

1. Where the church is located. Give location as found in the ELCA Yearbook.

2. Facts about the organization. Reasons for organizing. Who were the people? When and where? Who assisted? Charter members? First pastor?

3. First place of worship. Church or churches and other buildings constructed or purchased and where located? How used? (Photographs. if available) The cemetery?

4. The pastors who served and the length of their pastorates. The parsonage or parsonages. This information may be combined with paragraph 3 if desired.

5. The Auxiliaries - Ladies Aid. Brotherhood, Luther League, Choirs, etc.

6. Christian instruction: confirmation, catechization. Sunday school, vacation church school, parochial school, released time, adult instruction. The Lutheran church has always been a teaching church, and what your congregation has done is an important part of your history. The languages and texts of Sunday and VBS series are worth mentioning as well as people who did outstanding work.

7. Merger with other congregations. if any, and/or change of name. If ever a member of a multiple parish, a summary of these connections would be in order.

8. Synodical affiliations: Has the congregation had some special benevolence interests? Did it ever help or sponsor a missionary or a home mission congregation? Were there any members who entered the ministry or some form of full-time Christian work?

9. Worship in the parish: Orders of service. hymnals. languages used, and if ever non-English, when change took place. Time of services, attendance and any other information about the services.

10. Summary of ministerial acts - totals by decades or by years. (This will depend on how statistical you wish to be and how much space you have.)

11. Some anniversary booklets devote one page to a chronological summary like this:

1896 - Congregation organized. Served by Pastor
1897 - Joined Synod.
1897 - Bought parsonage located at _____, etc..

12. If your anniversary is the 10th or the 15th, now is the time to gather detailed historical data and file it away, even if you cannot use it all now. Likely, some charter members are still around and can give facts of great interest and importance. Unless these facts are on paper they will be lost! If you tape record conversations be sure to have them transcribed. Now is the time! 20-25 years from now will be TOO LATE.

If the old congregation minutes in German, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, etc. have not been translated, now would be a good time to do that. The Region 3 Archives has some suggestions on how to get this work done.

Note: additional ideas on writing congregational histories are found on page 29 in conjunction with celebrating church anniversaries.

Please send two (2) copies of your history booklet or anniversary folder to ELCA Region 3 Archives, 2481 Como Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55108, do Paul A. Daniels, Region 3 Archivist.

Memory Work: A Guide for ELCA Congregational Archives and History is prepared by Paul Daniels, Archivist and Curator of the Luther Seminary and ELCA Region3 Archives. ©1991, Revised 1998, 2001 and 2003. Reproduction and sharing is permitted, provided this credit is included.