What a powerful way to understand, through the insights of an art historian, one aspect of the work of archives and archivists…
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.)
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.
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.
–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?
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…:)
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.
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.
Installment 2 of my trio (read yesterday’s post below for the set-up) is also from the 20 June 2005 edition of Occasional Episltes of Grace and Peace. The title is Follow the Truth:
…wherever it may lead” read the sign on the Music City Assembly of God…not bad for a marquee one-liner. I snapped a picture of it one day on the way home; that photo has been above my desk in my study ever since. I think it’ll make a fine intro to my blog: it is simple and it is honest. And as far as one-liners go, its a splendid compass point. I’d like that sentiment to hang over my desk here in cyberspace.
I don’t know the subtext behind that marquee. Maybe the good folk at the Music City Assembly intended it to have a subtext of swarshbucklin’ go-get-em “defense of the faith.” Maybe they were trying to communicate with the commuters on Edmondson Pike that their church was a safe place to seek truth. For all I know they got it off one of those horrid emails that comes around every so often loaded with 27,000 trite-if-not-idiotic one-liners (i.e. OUR CH–CH…what’s missing??? UR).
Whatever their intent, and whatever the subtext, it struck me in a positive way. And the sentiment has remained with me. I’d like to embrace the rhetoric that speaks with humble conviction: I will follow the truth where it leads. I want to seek truth. Not that I have obtained it, for I see darkly, but one day…
Seeking truth, and following truth, is a hopeful journey. Hope is confidence in what (who/Who) is other than my self; I am not satisfied with now, I press on to the more truthful tomorrow. I am not satisfied with self, but only in He who is truth. Truth-seeking is a humbling journey. I am not arrogant now, indeed, I cannot be, dare not be, arrogant in the now, but relentlessly open to the more truthful tomorrow. It is a journey: both in seeking truth and in following it. Both in discernment and in implementation.
I’d like to be hopeful in my journey for and with truth. I’d like to be humble in my journey for and with truth. I am humbled by my ignorance and my failure to implement. Sometimes I’d rather not go where truth will lead. Sometimes I am deluded by my prideful knowledge. Hope both lifts my vision beyond pride and humbles me because I constantly see how far I have yet to journey. Hope also lifts my vision beyond despair, because I am not secure because of my grasp of the truth, or a truth, or any truth, but I am secure in Him who is Truth.
In future posts I’d like to explore how this sentiment can shape my task as teacher, exegete, theologian and scholar. I’d also like to explore how this sentiment can shape how I live as a human. I’m charged up to do this because I am convinced that the hopeful-yet-humble journey of truth-seeking resonates in our own postmodern context. I want to speak a word of grace and peace to our context; I suspect that the Music City Assembly marquee may give me the vocabulary and the spirit with which to do it.
Your thoughts are welcome here, friend.
Grace and peace.
I began blogging in June 2005 at blogspot and continued there through August 2008. Before that I maintained a faculty web page on the Ezell-Harding site for over two years. That page was obviously academic in nature (my Biblical and Theological Studies links page is the residue of that old page). My vocation, as I see it, has changed little in these last three years, although every one of my employers has (that’s another series of posts for another time). Nevertheless, Escriptorium stands in a line of thinking/typing aloud, conducting research, fostering scholarship, and exploring all things historical, theological and ecclesiastical. The kiddos showed up occasionally, as did a few crass remarks and some inane rambling, but the blog has been an extension of my interests and vocatio.
Looking forward to 2009, if the Lord wills, I’m reposting today, tomorrow and the next, a series of posts which launched my blog back in the summer of 2005. I re-read them a few days ago and though I might change a few phrases here and there, perhaps make an addition or a subtraction, they essentially remain an accurate indicator of where I want to be as far as this blog is concerned. Getting ready for a new year, I find it helpful to return to these three posts. Perhaps you will enjoy them as well.
Well, here goes… from the 20 June 2005 inaugural edition of Occasional Epistles of Grace and Peace:
So I have now joined the throng of bloggers. I’ve hitched my wagon to the electronic equivalent of the old party-line, only there about 27 billion people listening in, and not just on conversations, but on my own random thoughts, and this I do voluntarily (?), knowing that the world can see. This is too odd. At one point not long ago I whispered a vow to myself that I wouldn’t get caught up in this gig. And now I’m rambling on my own seconds-old blog about how I’d never blog. And what is “blog” anyhow; sounds like something you’d scrape off your shoe after a walk through the park. (Excuse me sir, but I think you have stepped in some blog…) I suspect that this sort of mildly self-critical irony, and dry mediocre humor, is par for the course.
So here’s to it. I’ll only go around once, so why not?
I’ve been mulling over this blog for a while, even in spite of my prejudice against all things technological (in the new world order there will be no technology: that’s an inside joke only about twenty-seven of you in cyber-space will even get), primarily as a way for family to keep up with us, our goin’s and doin’s, and as a way for me to interact with my students, who are more comfortable online that I am drinking coffee in a Waffle House (ok, another one of those things that only the elect will understand). Of course, the trick is to con my students into actually looking at their teacher’s blog. How dorky that must be. What am I thinking anyhow?
There are some creative things I’d like to con this blog into doing: hopefully to extend the conversations begun in my classroom, to probe ideas and post reflections. I’d like to take advantage of those possibilities. I’d like to write and publish; this is a way to do that as well.
So, perhaps this will be a worthwhile journey (there’s another one of those esoteric “blog phrases”…I’m irritating myself). Time will tell.
In all seriousness, my hope is that this will be a place for thinking out loud about all sorts of things, where the journey is as prized as the destination, and where enjoyable conversation makes the whole thing worth its bandwidth. Do check back in; I’d like to hear from you.
From my desk to yours, my sincere wish for you is grace and peace.
When teaching at Ezell-Harding, I assigned research papers and often used essay questions on tests. Writing well leads to thinking well, I told my students. Before you can write you must first think, I stressed. Though a few papers and tests each semester clearly demonstrated that the students hadn’t communicated anything in their writing (one can only imagine their thought processes…but that is another story), by and large it went pretty well. A few students remarked how they even liked it (bless their souls). For what I was trying to accomplish in my classroom, writing was a means to an end. I wanted my students to begin to think well about Scripture. I wanted them to begin to become life-long learners, equipped with some basic skills for reading Biblical narrative, or poetry, or letters. I wanted them to leave my classes with both a desire and a confidence to love God with their minds. I used writing as a tool to move them towards that goal.
Writing is a discipline I try to maintain precisely for the reasons above. I also like to write (chalk it up to the Ice genes). I’m working now on C. E. W. Dorris because I think he made a significant contribution to Churches of Christ and no one has yet told his story. His story needs to be told, and it needs to be told well. Furthermore, telling his story forces me to search out the primary documents, read and sift them, and then present what I find in a clear, readable and compelling way. I must also interact with the larger story of the Stone-Campbell movement and Churches of Christ not to mention the social and cultural milieu of the American south 1860-1960. How about that for a writing project? I think for my purposes chronicling his life and ministry will be about all I can do. It is one contribution; hopefully others will add to it, change it, revise it, expand it…better it. I think if we explore our past and interact with it in a critically responsible way, we will find much in it that can teach us. But it all comes down to caring about our past, searching it out, writing it up and then sharing it. The better we do that (all of that)…I think…the more apt folks will be to listen and learn from our history. The task demands excellence and good writing is a tool useful for the goal.
Chris Heard makes helpful suggestions for better writing here (scroll down for a few additional posts; he has also tagged them under ‘writing’).