eScriptorium 2021 Year In Review

In April I wondered if I could, or would, resurrect this blog.  I assumed then I should, and maybe I still think so.  I don’t know.

Since then I have tried to bring it back.  Stephen King describes his muse as basement-dweller.  I can relate.  I tried.   In fits and starts, but mostly feel like I have stalled.  Sweeping out a place in the basement for that flabby louse has been more of a chore than I bargained for.  I will take King at his word and keep at the grunt labor in part because I, too, am stubborn.  Stubborn and hard-headed and determined. I also remember what it was like to gin up posts like the Scoville precis, the Lipscomb bibliography, or even the lighter Foakes Jackson vignette.  So even if sometimes I don’t think I can, I think I will keep at it in case I should resurrect it.

In April I lamented the challenge of making time to read and write.  Beginning more or less the following week, I did something about it: I carved out one day per week to read and write.  My colleague Amanda was so kind and helpful as we worked through the logistics.  And most all of that work went right into the dissertation, specifically in trying to gain a foothold in historiography.   Some days I spent in other research projects, and some days I spent reading and preparing for my archival work.  In April I expected some of that reading to bubble up or otherwise make its way here.  It hasn’t, but I still consider it progress.

In November I decisively excised myself from social media. I was not ever a heavy user, so cutting it out meant cutting out only Facebook.  I have a post drafted about it.  I keep tweaking it and  I still don’t think it is worth posting.  But…but…cutting even this little thing out has given me some more clarity.  Writing remains quietly needy, and this step has helped me say ‘no’ to lesser things and thereby tend the writing fires.

I will also say that I followed Ray Bradbury’s advice and wrote some crappy things.  I came close to posting most of them here.  But having got them out of my system, I found that much was enough to scratch the itch.  So I deleted the drafts.  The Facebook post might well be another one that gets deleted.  I can’t say yet.  But the point is, I got it out and the getting-it-out cleared some mental cobwebs.  I consider that another step in the right direction.

Making time to read and write, and read and write, and trying to be disciplined, and patient, and consistent.  That pretty much sums up my efforts toward this blog in 2021.

I closed my April post thusly:

I have no other plans than that. I can’t say how often, or what I might write about. Perhaps I might do some book reviews. And they might be reviews of old books. Or reviews of articles. Or drafts of research ideas? Or little side lines that I slice from research papers? Scraps from the cutting room floor? Who knows? I guess we’ll find out together.

Turns out I did more or less just that.  Lots of quotes.  No reviews, really, although I have not forgotten about reviewing Robert McKenzie’s little book.  The big takeaway is progress comes in small steps on my own terms.  I still want to do it and perhaps the doing of it will prod that muse?  May be.  This paragraph still stands as to what I hope I might do in 2022.

Blogging, for me as a writer, was a lot of fun 15 years ago.  It was a ‘pull market’.  Post something to pull your readers in.  It was a new thing and it was fun.  Social media and podcasting seems to have sapped a lot of energy from the blogosphere.  Seems like social media took a cue from the ‘send me notifications’ functionality and finessed the ‘push system’ where you generate your content then push it to your readers.  Readers become much more passive in the reception of content, and much more active in banal methods of responding (the ‘like’ button, and worse, the other stupid emojis).  The rise of diverse platforms from Facebook to Instagram to YouTube to Pinterest to whatever the newest thing is this afternoon all seem to have contributed to the overall demise of blogging.  I glanced through a few of the blogs I regularly followed years ago and most of them seem totally defunct.  In a sense it is easier to talk on a podcast or YouTube.   I guess Twitter scratches some other kind of itch.  Likely so.  I don’t know that it helps with precision.  I’m certain it doesn’t always add quality.  Maybe that is why I find it more difficult, post-social media, to generate substantive content on a blog.  On one hand, the readership here has flagged so I genuinely wonder if the effort is worth it for a small readership.  On the other, maybe blogging is so Luddite by comparison I now have to come back, even if only to protest?  I wouldn’t doubt it.

Yet the readership keeps coming precisely because of what I posted years ago.  It is difficult for me to avoid what seems clear: that what I post, for whomever finds it, is meaningful to them.  It seems someone is looking for it, and find it here.

Here are the top ten posts of 2021:

And here are where 5400+ hits from 2900+ users came from:

Here are the top countries:

Still and all, 128,000 total views far surpasses anything I could have expected or dreamed of 15 years ago.  I don’t do this for the numbers, if I did I would have filled the blog with click bait and shameless self-promotion.   There is plenty much of that out there as it is.  Plenty much indeed.  I have tried to do something other than that.  If you enjoyed any of it, please accept my thanks for stopping by.  Maybe we can do some more of it in 2022.

eScriptorium 2017 Year In Review

One of my goals for 2017 was to resume blogging.  My move to Abilene in early 2013 slowed posting; my family’s arrival in late July that year began a series of transitions that all but stopped my blogging.  We spent all our emotional energy and much of our time the remainder of 2013 settling into all things new: new home, new city, new jobs, new friends, new church, new routines, and a new son in April 2014.  That fall I went back to graduate school and completed a library degree in August 2016.

While I managed to generate a few posts in 2015-2016, the output really stagnated.  The numbers, though, did not.  I managed through regular posting in 2011 and 2012 to build a readership that topped 17,000 hits per year in both 2012 and 2013, up dramatically from about 6500-8000 per year in 2009-2010 and 3400 in 2008.  Overall, page views  moderated to about 10,000 per year (from about 4500 discrete users) in 2014-2016.  This was a decline, but a net gain of some 2000 page views more per year than the previous two years, with virtually no additional posts.  Yes, the number of hits dropped off, but much to my surprise they did not tank.  In fact, many posts about various Nashville Churches of Christ (congregations, persons, subjects, issues, etc.) kept generating hit after hit through Google searches.  I take it to mean that the material I blog about is of interest.  Ain’t none of this viral, but it seems folks are already looking for it, and they find it here.  In 2006-2007 when I began blogging more and more about Nashville Churches of Christ history I would not have predicted my readership map a decade later (after almost three years of inactivity) would look like this:

Screen Shot 2017-12-25 at 8.27.09 PM.png

Obviously the bulk of my readership is located in the US, but these countries are represented in 2017:

United States” 9242
Brazil 58
Canada 29
Philippines 28
India 27
United Kingdom 22
Norway 22
Australia 22
Singapore 20
Germany 19
South Africa 19
New Zealand 11
Japan 10
European Union 8
France 7
South Korea 7
Trinidad & Tobago 6
Italy 5
Mexico 5
Malaysia 4
Netherlands 4
Nigeria 4
Moldova 3
Ghana 3
Ireland 3
Belarus 3
Belgium 3
Ecuador 2
Malawi 2
Honduras 2
Thailand 2
Zambia 2
Vietnam 1
Lebanon 1
Turkey 1
Bulgaria 1
Dominican Republic 1
Indonesia 1
Haiti 1
Bahamas 1
Bhutan 1
Spain 1
Albania 1
Morocco 1
Romania 1
Hong Kong SAR China 1
Finland 1

Top Ten posts (with page views) for 2017 are:

1. Understanding Non-Institutional Churches of Christ: 350

2. Understanding Non-Sunday School Churches of Christ: 276

3. David Lipscomb: A Bibliography: 209

4. South Harpeth Church of Christ, Davidson County, Tennessee: 195

5. Nashville, The City of David (Lipscomb): Three Issues of Gospel Advocate Remember Lipscomb and His Legacy: 192

6. About: 145

7. Helpful Lectio Divina Quotes: 116

8. Facts Concerning the New Testament Church, a tract by P. H. Welshimer: 103

9. The Spoken Word: 93

10. Mack Wayne Craig visitor follow-up letter, Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ, Nashville, TN, 1958-59: 83

10. The Written Word: 83

The top spot goes again to Chris Cotten, whose guest post about noninstitutional first reads has proven to be the most enduringly popular post on my blog.  He has had the top spot each year for almost a decade now.  I can only surmise I should post less and garner more traffic, or simply redirect to his blog.  Congratulations again Chris!  In all seriousness, over the years I have made overtures to a few people for guest posts like Chris’ and no one has taken me up on the offer.

The remainder of the top ten list suggests I should spend more time in these areas:

  1. Assemble resources readers might find useful
  2. Add resources to my About Me, Spoken Word and Written Word pages
  3. Continue Nashville history including the oddball artifact, ephemera, or document

The most popular tags and categories are also revealing (also with page views or clicks):

  1. Nashville Churches of Christ: 221
  2. David Lipscomb: 209
  3. Nashville Bible School and Gospel Advocate: 208 each
  4. Nashville history: 207
  5. James A. Harding: 206
  6. Nashville Stone-Campbell sites: 204
  7. Joe McPherson, State and Local History, and David Lipscomb College: 196 each

Perhaps the most symbolic statistic reached this year is that in 2017 discrete visitors topped 25,000 (as of now 25,468 viewers) and total page views reached 101,196.

If you are brand new, welcome, take a look around.  If you are a regular, thank you for reading, even if my pace has been a bit off these last four years. I make no promises for 2018.  I would like to blog more regularly, and I think I will have a wider margin that can allow for it.  I even have some concrete ideas.  So let’s try to resume.  I invite you to read along with me this year.

A strategy for congregational research

My Nashville research across the last ten years has evolved from an interest in Central Church (where I was then Associate Minister) to a much, much larger scope including each congregation in the county, every para-church ministry based in Nashville, and how the larger issues within Stone-Campbell history interact with local history in one city resulting in the ministry conducted on ground, in the trenches, in the congregations.  With that comes the innumerable evangelists, ministers and pastors who held forth weekly from pulpits across the city. Ambitious? Yes.  Perhaps too ambitious.  That may be a fair criticism, but the field is fertile and the more I survey the landscape and read the sources and uncover additional data, the more I’m convinced to stay the course.

In the last four years especially I have focused my efforts to obtain information about the smaller congregations, closed congregations, particularly congrgations which have closed in the last 40 to 50 years.  My rationale for this focus is that some history here is in some cases, potentially recoverable.  There are larger affluent congregations which have appearances of vitality…they are going nowhere soon.  I can only hope some one among them is heads-up enough to chronicle their ongoing history and preserve the materials they produced.  On the other hand are congregations which have long-ago closed and chances are good we might not ever know anything of them except a name and possibly a location (for example, Carroll Street Christian Church is absorbed into South College Street in 1920 forming Lindsley Avenue Church of Christ…no paper is known to exist from this church, and I can’t even find one photo of the old building, and there is no one remaining who has living memory of this congregation).  For all practical purposes Carroll Street Church of Christ may remain as mysterious in twenty years as it does now.  I’d be surprised to learn of 3 people now living in the city of Nashville who have even heard of it.

But the several congregations that closed in the 50’s-80’s (and some even in the last five years) remain accessible if only through documents and interviews.  Theoretically the paper (the bulletins, meeting minutes, directories, photographs, even potentially sermon tapes) has a good chance of survival in a basement or attic or closet.  Chances are still good that former members still live, or folks might be around–in Nashville or elsewhere–who grew up at these congregations.  Theoretically.  Potentially.  Hopefully.

Yet as time marches on there are more funerals…for example in the last year I missed opportunities to speak with three elderly folks about their memories at these now-closed churches…they were too ill to speak with me and now they are gone!  I did, however, speak at length with one woman in ther 90’s who I thought died long ago!  She is quite alive and lucid!

So from time to time I will highlight on this blog these closed congregations…closed in the recent past…with hopes that someone somewhere might look for them (I get hits on this blog by folks looking for all sorts of things, among them are several Nashville Churches of Christ).  Maybe we can stir up some interest and surface additional information.

A few days ago I posted about one such congregation, the Twelfth Avenue, North Church of Christ.  I have in the queue a post about New Shops Church of Christ in West Nashville.  There are more, several more.

Stay tuned, and remember, save the paper!

eScriptorium 2010 in review

The stats for 2010 are as follows:

Total views: 8184 (2009 was 8030)

Top three referrers: 154 135 79

Top 3 posts:

Understanding Non-Institutional Churches of Christ: Some Suggestions for First Reads: 1201
Goodbye Charlotte Avenue?: 253
Helpful Lectio Divina quotes: 247

Top 3 search terms:

lectio divina: 79
non-institutional Churches of Christ: 43
Gospel Advocate archives: 34

I remain amazed at the international traffic; I’ve had visitors from these countries since October 2010:

United States (US) 483
United Kingdom (GB) 15
Canada (CA) 12
India (IN) 5
Philippines (PH) 5
Brazil (BR) 4
France (FR) 2
Romania (RO) 2
Spain (ES) 2
Pakistan (PK) 2
Korea, Republic of (KR) 2
Guatemala (GT) 2
Indonesia (ID) 2
Ireland (IE) 1
Russian Federation (RU) 1
Germany (DE) 1
Austria (AT) 1
Japan (JP) 1
Switzerland (CH) 1
Bahamas (BS) 1
Thailand (TH) 1
Malaysia (MY) 1
Australia (AU) 1
Chile (CL) 1
Jamaica (JM) 1
United Arab Emirates (AE) 1
Egypt (EG) 1
New Zealand (NZ) 1
Taiwan (TW) 1
Saudi Arabia (SA) 1
Malta (MT) 1

I am disappointed that the Holy See (Vatican City) hasn’t checked in yet this year. The Pope evidently got all he needed on his one visit last year. But I understand… when you’re the Pope, you’re a busy man.

I have in 2010, as the blog reflects, looked into Stone-Campbell materials on Google Books. There is much here that has not been previously available elsewhere on the web, a few things not otherwise easily available in hard copy, and some of it just plain hard to get anywhere.  In this way Google has opened a new vista for research-from-your-desktop.  I haven’t blogged about the fine material on Hans Rollmann’s RM pages, though some of it is now available through Google Books in PDF. Hans’ pages and Scott Harp’s pages remain very useful; Google’s advantage comes because of the bulk of the material they are scanning (for example…tons of material from Harvard Divinity Library).  By casting a wide net, they catch some interesting fish once in a while.  But, Hans and Scott have items that Google doesn’t (and might not have for some time yet).  Google’s approach likely serves the majority of the information needs of a broad slice of the researching public, but there is a ton of Stone-Campbell material that isn’t online.  A ton.  All that to say…be careful about drawing conclusions based on research done from your desktop via Google Books.  But I digress.

In 2010, I suppose due to the several items I posted by or about him, my references to John William McGarvey earned me a spot on the ‘external links’ section of his Wikipedia article.  I have a few more similar things I’d like to post (specifically McGarvey items) not to mention the files upon files of CEW Dorris, JW Shepherd and “Nashville” stuff.  If this blog is quiet is isn’t for lack of material, just time to digest it and post it.  I intended to post an average of 5 posts per week for 2010.  I probably acheived that one week. 

Total hits for eScriptorium stand at just over 19,600…which far, far exceeds anything I would have ever expected, especially since, again this year, just like last year, I didn’t mention anything on the blog that would generate hits for reasons political, entertainment or otherwise scandalous. Its mainly me rambling about Restoration movement books. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…:)

But, the point is that I enjoy tinkering around with this little blog and it generates some good conversation once in a while.  Though the comments haven’t lit up like they do on other blogs, I have had several emails and have very much enjoyed those conversations. 

I think this blog justifies the little time I spend with it and retains its potential for neat things in the coming year.  Though we may be few in number, there are a few of us interested in old Restoration Movement stuff.  Wonder what 2011 holds, friends? Whatever it holds for you, my wish for you grace and peace.

eScriptorium: 2010 New Year’s Resolutions

I’m not a big fan of resolutions.  But I’m game for a little goal-setting for this next year.  On this date last year  I hoped to publish to this blog some research finds, Ice family history, fruits of teaching ministry, and a few eclectic odds and ends.  About the only specific goal I made for myself was to generate five posts per week.  That didn’t consistently happen, but maybe I can take some solace in the fact that my output for ’09 was greater than ’08.  I also think it was more substantial in terms of content.

So, for 2010 I propose more of the same.  I like the combination of academic research, family history, state and local history, congregational ministry, etc.  Let’s stick with a five-posts-per-week goal.  That seems reasonable. 

I don’t suffer from want of material (as it stands now I have one filing cabinet drawer apiece for brothers Dorris and Shepherd, and another 2 drawers for Nashville Stone-Campbell stuff).  I have somewhere in the neighborhood of three file drawers of Ice family history.  The problem is wading through it all.  There is a lot to digest and my perfectionistic tendencies ensure that I hesitate.  I know enough to know there is a great, great deal I don’t know.  I want to feel comfortable with what I say and how I interpret the material.  I also want to say it well.  Blogging my research in 2009 was helpful, but we’ll see if it can’t be more so in 2010.

The Christmas break has given me some time to catch up on some reading.  I have prepared a few book reviews (the review of George Zepp’s Hidden History of Nashville is already up) and scheduled them to appear over the next several weeks.  I hope to review old books as well as new ones.  Again, it is easy to say so now…we’ll see how it turns out.

Lastly, the Explorations in Stone-Campbell Bibliography didn’t appear on the 27th of each month like I hoped.  I’ll give it another go for 2010.

Two Disciples websites, and a reflection on archiving

DisciplesWorld‘s website will change and evolve over the next few months.  Keep up with it all at Verity Jones’ blog here and get connected at the Intersection, a social networking site for Disciples and friends, here.  Change and evolution is the order of the day it seems.

It remains to be seen what an archive will look like and how it will function in a few years as print media continues to disappear.  Certainly the day of printed journals as media of information, opinion and discussion like we have known it for the last two hundred years, is over.  I don’t know what the new day will be like, but I don’t think it will look like yesterday.  Maybe we will see a resurgence of journals?  Maybe the few survivors will emerge stronger?  Maybe not?  Maybe something else will emerge that none of us as yet can image.  Who knows?

One hundred years ago a preacher (like C.E.W. Dorris when he published The Bible Student) would purchase a printing press, a couple trays of type, set about to build a readership and promulgate his views and the teaching of those he respected.  Frequently these small operations were expensive, time-consuming and soon abandoned.  For example, Dorris and his wife often worked twelve or fourteen hour days setting type, printing, labeling and mailing his journal.  Subscriptions barely enabled them to break even (partly because it was a small readership, and partly because he operated it cheaply for a theological reason: to preach to the poor).  So, the Dorrises used the press for job printing to pay the bills.  Eventually he abandoned the paper because he felt it a better use of his time to preach in person rather than teach through a printed page.  We are fortunate, very fortunate, to have a full run of his paper.  We could repeat a similar story several times over.

Now preachers, pastors and especially average pew-ers sign up for wordpress or facebook or blogger or intersection or whatever…for free and build a readership through near-instant networking.  The dynamic has changed altogether.  One aspect of archiving will certainly need to be addressed in this new day: in the past we have collected papers and journals which have almost exclusively been printed and published by preachers or (un)denominational publishing houses.  What little we have in the way of the average person in the pew is in the form of diaries or letters, and they are scarce…scarce.  Not so with wordpress, facebook, blogger… everyone can be ubiquitous in this new day.  So, the archivist’s choice is this: whose voice do we preserve?  We can’t keep everything, and choices must be made…so who gets saved to the server and who gets deleted? And furthermore, not only does everyone have a voice now, most of what they say doesn’t look like it is worth keeping.  Much of what I see on blogs and social networking sites is the minutiae of daily life.  But I also see some wonderful historical, theological and ministerial reflection taking place…stuff that needs to be kept.

So, here I am wishing we had more leather-and-paper diaries from the 19th century and bemoaning the banality of much of what I see in the blogosphere.  What is disturbing is that in 100 years we may wish we had a hard drive or three worth of blogs and facebook accounts…all keyword searchable and ready for PhD (or whatever they’ll call it then) dissertation research.  In short, I don’t have an answer I’m comfortable with…I’m only just now beginning to wrestle with the problem.  What is at once frustrating and (on my good days) exhilarating, is that by the time we think we have the problem somewhat under control, it will change again.

Enough for now, I think I’ll check out who is on intersection…:)

New archives blog

Concordia Historical Institute is the Department of Archives and History of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.  They are now blogging here.

Be sure to check them out and especially look through the photos of their new museum and exhibit center.  Next time I’m in St. Louis I want to visit in person.

blogging in advance, and a garden update from the ice’s

I like the WordPress feature allowing me to set the time of my posts’ publication.  Sometimes the blogging muses charm me and several posts come at once.  Then there are the times when I’m too busy, otherwise occupied or just uninspired.  Too, I like to compose several posts in advance and let them simmer for a few days.  I’ll go back to them once or twice… three or four times in some cases.  Then I send them out for the whole world to read (and three of you actually do!).  I still have drafts saved from over a year ago that haven’t yet seen the light of day, or the light of your monitor as the case may be. 

All that to say, I have several posts ready to go for the remainder of this week. 

Good news to report on the gardening front.  I harvested the first zucchini and cucumbers a couple days ago; we have yellow squash, green peppers, peas, okra, carrots and tomatoes coming along.  As soon as I get a new pair of overalls I’ll post a photo…American Gothic style.  I built a raised bed this year, 8’x12′ of 2×10 boards, filled it with two years worth of compost and it has taken off really well.  Last summer we didn’t set out a garden.  Just as well since it was so hot and we had our hands full getting ready for Sara’s arrival.  And on top of that since last year was our 7th summer in this house, I thought it fitting to give the land a Sabbath rest

My friend Mark Manry once told me about how Emerson or Thoreau (probably Thoreau…) once remarked to a colleague how he hadn’t read a book all summer…he hoed potatoes instead.  I’ve been reading, but I’m also trying to keep some dirt under my fingernails.  My only regret is that I can only squeeze so many plants in an 8×12 bed.  I have about 6 hills of peas, 5 or 6 pepper plants, about 9 squash and zucchini plants, two rows of okra and a nice stand of cucumbers climbing up a wire cage.  The carrot patch has about a half dozen volunteer tomato plants.  If they weren’t the nicest looking ones we’ve had here I would have plucked them out weeks ago.  But since appearances lead me to think they might actually produce something, they get to stay. 

They sprouted from the compost.  Why they managed to concentrate in one corner I can’t explain.  But they did and they look nice. It remains to be seen whether we’ll have tomatoes instead of, or in addition to, the carrots.  I call that corner my salad corner since one stand of peas is encroaching into the carrots/tomatoes.

I am proud to say that this year I haven’t sprayed once for insects, and we didn’t use any chemical fertilizer.  Composting our kitchen scraps and grass clippings renders a nice dark compost.  Maybe its just dumb luck as far as the bugs go.

Today we’ll make a loaf of zucchini bread.  Doesn’t get any better than this, friends!