Archives and History continues to preserve United Methodist heritage

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Part of a series on how the church works

The United Methodist Commission on Archives and History continued in 2016 its ongoing service preserving the denomination’s heritage.

With a newly hired communications director and a prominent presence at General Conference 2016, the agency hopes to raise its profile with members of the denomination who may not be aware of the valuable service the archival agency provides. It also granted scholarships and prizes to those pursuing the field of academic research in United Methodist history and heritage.

In response to questions from United Methodist News Service, executive staff of the commission discussed the agency’s role and accomplishments in the past year.

What were the top three to five goals of your agency in 2016?

  1. Launching the new position of communications director, implementing the communications and branding action plan.
  1. Implementing an impactful presence at 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon, demonstrating the work of the commission and its critical and potential value to The United Methodist Church at various levels.
  1. Improving the commission’s financial position via controlling expenses and invigorating new funding streams.

Were you able to fully or partly accomplish these goals? How was that done?

The first goal was met through the hiring of a new communications director, Jay Rollins, and launching a strategic communications plan. The plan included building brand awareness through owned media channels and an increased presence in earned media. Research done in collaboration with United Methodist Communications determined that the agency and its mission and mandates were virtually unknown across the denomination.

The second goal was met with an exhibit space at General Conference that focused on the ministries provided by Archives and History, on the anniversary of Francis Asbury’s death, and the launch of a new geocaching campaign — Amazing (G)race — designed to promote the Heritage Landmarks of The United Methodist Church.

The third goal was met through the introduction of a direct mail campaign to Commission friends and affinity groups. The campaign yielded $14,000 in additional agency income, with $60,000 anticipated for the new quadrennium. Careful negotiations with Drew University, the agency’s landlord, yielded a significant decrease in building and library service fees, amounting to more than $122,000 in the first year. Both these steps are significant strides in our sustainability.       

What was your budget for 2016? How much of that budget was put toward each of these goals?

The commission’s 2016 budget was $1,248,950. In relation to the goals mentioned above, they were divided as follows:

• Goal # 1 – $75,000 

• Goal #2 – $45,000

• Goal # 3 – direct mail campaign, $1,500

• Fees to Drew University reduced from $345,000 to $223,000

Please give a specific example of how one of your programs benefited a United Methodist, a church or a specific community.

Archives and History is proud to offer eight different opportunities for $25,000 per year in awards, grants, scholarships and prizes encouraging and supporting college, seminary, graduate, doctoral and established academics pursuing research and scholarly work in the field of United Methodist history and heritage. 2016 recipients include: Women United Methodist History grants awarded to Ashley Boggan Dreff (Drew University Ph.D. student - $2,000) and Dr. Paul Chilcote (Ashland Theological Seminary - $1,000) for work toward a publication: “A History of Marriage: A Methodist Case Study” and “The Methodist Defense of Women in Ministry: A Documentary History,” respectively. John Harrison Ness Memorial Award to M. Div. students for excellence in academic papers in the field of Methodist History awarded First Place to Molly Brock White (Duke Divinity - $500) for “Connectionalism and District Superintendency in The United Methodist Church” and Second Place to Emily Robnett (Perkins Theological Seminary - $300) for “Christine Allen: Missionary to the Belgian Congo.” The Commission finances and the Society of American Archivists coordinates the application process for the Josephine Forman Scholarship ($10,000) supporting ethnic and minority student studies in the field of archiving, which was awarded in 2016 to Desiree Alaniz of Simmons College (Boston).

The agency also collaborated with Discipleship Ministries and Higher Education and Ministry in the annual Wesley Pilgrimage in England program, an intensive and immersive program with key historic sites and scholars in Methodist History and church growth and development specialists, all grounded in inspirations from early Methodist history and DNA along with best practices in small group, accountable discipleship best practices.

What particular challenges did the agency face in accomplishing these goals?

Flat-top declining resources from denominational sources. Small, but extremely dedicated, staff.

If the goals are ongoing, what do you plan to accomplish in 2017?

1) Commission development: Build the new 2017-2020 commission into an active, accountable, creative, efficient team serving our mandate to “promote and care for the historical interests of The United Methodist Church and its antecedents.”

2) Phase 2 of Commission Financial Development: Wills and estates planning, to launch the next step in insuring the agency’s solid and growing financial future.

3) Evaluation and new visioning for Methodist History and new mass audience publication: Form a task group including UMCom and Discipleship Ministries to assess the agency’s quarterly journal with an eye to better understand its current audience, consider ways to make it more accessible to current and potential readers, envision new publication to reach a more everyday United Methodist demographic.

4) Launch Amazing (G)race, the commission’s new program targeted to youth and young adults via geocaching geared to United Methodist Heritage Landmarks. Also launch new award for creation of Methodist history or heritage curriculum targeted to youth and young adults.

5) Provide leadership in the Methodism’s Enduring Racial Dilemma’s multiagency, disciplinary Pan-Methodist event.

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