eScriptorium 2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 17,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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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:

ccotten.wordpress.com: 154
facebook.com: 135
google.com: 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.