Time, delay, patience and expanding the capacity to understand

What a powerful way to understand, through the insights of an art historian, one aspect of the work of archives and archivists…

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Name Authority for Nashville, Tennessee Stone-Campbell Congregations

Name Authority for Nashville Tennessee Stone-Campbell Congregations, September 2012

Click above to download a document listing 319 variants of time-, place- and character-names for the 227 known congregations of the Stone-Campbell movement in Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee from 1812 to September 2012.

To my knowledge my work in this area is the only such compilation, and therefore, the most complete.  The initial publication of the list to this blog was in May 2010 as a first step in my research toward a book on the Restoration Movement in Nashville.  I blogged then:

With over 200 congregations in this county, the congregational research alone will take years, perhaps the remainder of my life.  If I live to be 100 I may not finish even a rudimentary survey.  It may be too much:  too many congregations, too many preachers, too much ‘story’ to tell.

But this is where I am at the present.  I publish the list here to generate interest, additions, subtractions, corrections and clarifications.  Look it over and if I need to make changes, please let me know.

While congregational history is only one aspect of this project, this is where it all played out…on the ground in the congregations on a weekly basis.  Few congregations have attempted more than a list of preachers or a narrative of the expansion of the church building.  What I propose, as I wrote above, may be too much…too far to the other extreme.  But that fact changes not one whit the necessity of it being done.

The story of these churches in Nashville needs to be told.  I ask for your help in telling it.  look over my list; I solicit your critique. Contact me at icekm [at] aol [dot] com.

(The first version of the name authority, from May 2010, can be found here.)

“To be a historian”: Quote without comment

This from Doris Kearns Goodwin via Garrison Keillor’s “Writer’s Almanac” (with thanks to Don Haymes for passing it on to me): 

To be a historian is to discover the facts in context, to discover what things mean, to lay before the reader your reconstruction of time, place, mood, to empathize even when you disagree. You read all the relevant material, you synthesize all the books, you speak to all the people you can, and then you write down what you know about the period. You feel you own it.

Dictionaries and Lexicons

DICTIONARIES AND LEXICONS.

None understand the value of dictionaries and lexicons so well as those who use them most. Every individual who reads any should, when reading, always keep by him an English Dictionary, such as Walker’s or Webster’s. An English word, the defination [sic] or meaning of which we are ignorant of, might as well, until understood, be Latin or Greek to those who do not understand these languages.  We sometimes hear people complaining of an author for using “hard words,” when the fault is in themselves, for not seeking the meaning in a Dictionary.  They are so cheap, that any one who can afford to read, can afford to get one.

EDITOR.

–John R. Howard, The Christian Reformer, January 1836, page 32.

—–

John R. Howard, of Paris, Tennessee, is Editor and publisher of The Christian Reformer; he includes this short note on the last page of the first issue–January 1836–of his paper.  It is the first periodical of the Stone-Campbell reformation published in Tennessee and only lasts a year.

Flaunting your vocabulary is one thing; utilizing language precisely and clearly is another.  One is arrogance, the other is a component of good teaching.  Unfortunately some prize simplistic teaching, writing or preaching when sensitive teaching is the preferable option.  Under no circumstance should a teacher or preacher speak circles around or over an audience.  Such is a manifestation of pride.  However, what self-respecting auditor would prefer to be spoon-fed rather than genuinely and sincerely taught, even challenged?  I suspect one root of the complaint against what Howard calls “hard words” is pride of another sort.  Rather than pride manifesting itself in a haughty display of vocabulary, it is pride in the lack of any vocabulary…anti-intellectual pride.   Howard is unimpressed by it.  I marvel at the depth of learning of his generation; they sought the very best available for themselves, their churches and communities.  I also marvel when those who claim to be truth-seekers, who ought to be mature meat-eaters, so to speak, prefer instead a bland diet of skim milk (I’m thinking of Hebrews 5.12).  When we settle for less in the pulpit, the classroom and the printed page are we truly heirs of these great reformers?

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…:)

CEW Dorris on Cled Wallace’s War Baby

This from CEW Dorris, Nashville, TN to Cled Wallace, Austin TX, September 9, 1942:

Dear Brother Wallace:

I have viewed your war baby which was displayed in the June issue of the Bible Banner and I must say that its one of the ugliest looking youngsters that I ever saw to have such a good looking papa.  It is a monster.  A very dangerous baby indeed.  It has its head and tail both up and shoots from both ends.  It looks to be as dangerous, if not more so, that its daddy thinks that Bollism is.  If the baby is generally accepted, I fear that it will do the cause of Christ far more harm than Bollism ever did, or can do.  It has been fed so much Texas goat milk that it has a bad complexion and needs some baby oil.  I am sending it a dose and if taken according to directions its complexion ought to clear up in three or four days.  But if it don’t let me know and I will send it a dose that will do the work.

Strike throughs represents Dorris’ own editing, which occurrred likely sometime in late 1945 or 1946 (my best estimate) as this letter (the first of several) was prepared for publication in booklet form, to be issued by BC Goodpasture and/or the Gospel Advocate Company. 

Follow the link above to two articles in the June 1942 Bible Banner.  They set Dorris, an ardent pacifist, off in a years long (1942-1945) correspondence with Wallace.  Actually, Wallace replied once that I know of by letter, and he reprinted an excerpt from one of Dorris’ letters later in the Banner.  Otherwise it seems that he (Wallace) did not answer Dorris.  He evidently shared the letters he received from CEWD with OC Lambert and perhaps others.  What I have are Dorris’ letters…There is much here I haven’t even read yet.   And then I have to unpack it and contextualize it.

So, this set of letters in particular and the general thrust of my research thus far, has brought me here: there is much, much more to CEWD that we ever knew.  For my paper at Stone-Campbell Journal Conference I will of necessity have to be brief and sketch the parameters of his life and ministry.  Skeleton-type stuff, pegs on which to hang things, rough outline, prelimiary findings, hypotheses.  I have another conference paper pending for later in the fall.  Looks as if I may then take up this correspondence for an in-depth look at Dorris’ ecclesiology vis-a-vis (Cled) Wallace-Lambert-(Foy) Wallace’s renunciation of David Lipscomb’s Civil Government.   Whew.  How’s that?

The state of my Dorris research is good news/bad news.  Good news is I have found some wonderful things; the bad news is it will take more time than I initially thought to process it all and begin to unpack it.  On second thought…that’s good news after all.

Looking Back: Of Disclaimers and Critical Thinking

Installment 3 (see the two prior posts below) is from the 21 June 2005 edition of Occasional Espistles of Grace and Peace and is entitled Of Disclaimers and Critical Thinking.

Given my profession I regularly surf church, parachurch, biblical studies and other like ministry websites. Invariably I run across disclaimers, usually on the links pages, that read something like: We at Church X/Ministry Y/Organization Z do not operate these websites and cannot be held responsible for their content/point-of-view/doctrine/teaching, (etc.) so we caution you as you read and study them….You’ve seen them, you know of what I speak.

Maybe it is the cynical devil perched on my shoulder, planting malicious doubts into my ear, but I can’t help but read them with a bad taste in my mouth. The impression I get when I read these disclaimers is that there is an ironic twist to freedom of thought. As long as you are within, say a church-controlled site, you don’t need to think for yourself (because it is safe in here), but if you go elsewhere, then you’d better put your antennae up because who knows what you’ll run across. “Inside” there is no need to be critical, but on the “outside” then you’ve really got to be on your best guard. Seems skewed to me: skewed in favor of self and against the other guy. That is probably very unfair and condescending of me, but its what I feel when I read them. Maybe I ought to lighten up, get over it, and let folks run their own sites as they see fit.

I’d phrase a disclaimer differently. Instead of cautioning my readers against all sorts of (possible if not probable) horrid misinformation I’d just invite folks to read and think and study for themselves and leave it at that. I hope I’d recogize g that no site is error free and we are all subject to our own kinds of misinterpretation, fallibility and exegetical nonsense. I hope I’d put my own stuff at the top of the fallibility list.

I’d like to see a ministry post a disclaimer about its own content; something along the lines of “You know, we’ve done the best we know to do, but no doubt we have probably really misread Scripture somewhere in all of this, so be a good student and exercise discernment. We’ve also linked to some sites we think will add to your comprehension of the story of God. We encourage you to read them with the same charity and discernment as you would use here. Above all, let’s all use our minds to the glory of God and in love to our fellow seekers.”

That is as close to a “disclaimer” as you’ll get on my blog. So friend, love the Lord with your mind and give your brother the benfit of the doubt. To tweak a phrase: Don’t criticize until you’ve thought a mile in the other person’s head.

Grace and peace.