Publishing local-church history: many people have shaped my life for fifty-nine years--parents, grandparents, siblings, wife, daughters, friends, professors, and colleagues at work. But if I am honest with myself, I have to admit that local churches probably have influenced me as much or more than anyone or anything else.
How important was church to the earliest Baptists? The first English Baptist confession of faith, dated 1611, contains twenty-seven articles. Eleven use the word "church." The church belongs to Christ, consists only of the faithful "upon their own confession of the faith," should worship even if "their Officers should bee in Prison, sick, or by anie other meanes hindered from the Church," should not "challenge anie prerogative over anie other [church]," should receive members "by Baptisme upon the Confession off their faith and sinnes," and should choose as officers "either Elders ... or Deacons Men, and Women." (1)
James P. Wind, a Lutheran, stated in his book Places of Worship: Exploring Their History that "Congregations are places of worship. They are the special places in our culture where people relate to the holy, search for the sacred, address God." He observed that these "institutions are distinctive because--like in no other--humans regularly come together within them for the purpose of expressing ultimate concerns and meanings." (2)
Walter B. Shurden discussed "Microscopic Baptist History" in the March 2004 edition of The Baptist Studies Bulletin. "I believe," he asserted, "that one of the most urgent and neediest areas in Baptist history is that we learn to do serious, in-depth, scholarly work on local churches."
The Baptist History and Heritage Society recognizes the importance of local-church history. For that reason, it inaugurated its Baptist History Book Publishing Program in 1999 and designed it especially for churches. The BH&HS provides this service for lane, medium-size, and small churches.
We have a complimentary packet of materials that describes how our book publishing program works and presents a simplified, step-by-step approach to publishing your church's history. This program offers complete editing, layout/design, dust-jacket development, index preparation, and quality control throughout. We specialize in tailoring books to meet each church's specific financial needs. If your church plans to publish its history, contact Charles Deweese (800-966-2278; firstname.lastname@example.org).
A useful resource for any church preparing to publish its history is the BH&HS's A How-to Manual for Your Church's History. Titled "How to Research, Write, and Publish Your Church's History," Chapter 4 presents detailed information on every aspect of such a project.
The BH&HS is currently publishing the histories of The Baptist Church of Beaufort, South Carolina; the First Baptist Church of Ahoskie, North Carolina; and the Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.
The BH&HS coordinates its book publishing program in association with Fields Publishing in Nashville, owned by Tim Fields, award-winning Baptist communications and publishing specialist.
(1.) William L. Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith (rev. ed.; Valley Forge, Judson Press, 1969), 119-22.
(2.) James P. Wind, Places of Worship: Exploring Their History (Nashville: American Association for State and Local History, 1990), xviii, xix.
Charles W. Deweese
Baptist History and Heritage Society