This past Thursday (October 3), the Reverend Dr. Robert G. Aregood, the last pastor at Zion’s United Church of Christ, and his wife Barbara delivered the remaining boxes and tubs of materials for my sabbatical project.
Some of the files will probably be shredded (the Evangelical & Reformed Historical Society doesn’t have a use for bank records for closed accounts), while others will be checked, placed in new files, and put into boxes for sorting. Once everything has been placed into files (at least everything that can be placed in a file), then the next step begins: organizing the materials into the categories established by the ERHS (see https://historyeducator.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/i-should-have-bought-stock-in-staples/ for a list of the categories).
One of the items in the most recent delivery is conveniently labeled The Practical Church Record.
It includes sections on Constitution (these pages are blank, because the most recent church constitution is in another location), Our Pastors (blank), Our Officers—Elders (blank), Officers—Deacons (blank), Record of the Baptism of Infants (1962-2010), Record of Confirmation (1962-2006), Members Admitted (1962-2009), Marriages (1963-2011), Losses (including dismissals and deaths) (1962-1997), Those Who Passed On (1962-2010), and Communion Record (1962-2000). This is the last volume of church records for the congregation. Receiving this volume was a bit bittersweet, because even though I know Zion’s closed in September 2010, receiving these records to organize for deposit made it final.
The new arrivals also included a variety of items that reflected not only the closing of a church (the church seal is now in my possession, to be included with other non-paper items when they are deposited at the historical society), but also commemorations of Zion’s contributions to the city of Reading (including a proclamation signed by the mayor).
More church bulletins have been uncovered in the boxes and tubs. Minutes for the Consistory for the last few years are now in folders, waiting for arrangement. Copies of letters of transfer (both to Zion’s and to another congregation), correspondence with the IRS (which apparently wanted its pound of flesh from a defunct organization), and letters to members following the church’s closure offering them assistance in choosing a new place to worship are among the items discovered in the most recent delivery. It also included a CD with correspondence, financial reports, newsletters, bulletins, etc. that I could open on my computer (unlike the 3½” floppy disks also in the collections).
So, I’ve been plodding along, continuing to place records in files (such as 2010 Consistory Minutes), tossing duplicates into a pile (to be either shredded or sent to recycling, depending on the sensitive nature of the item), and making a mess in the garage where I am working (and in my apartment). Sometimes, I flip through the materials and encounter amusing items like this advertisement from a booklet published in the 1930s:
With the arrival of the last of the records, a sense of finality has arrived: the last services have been held, the building has been sold, and I get to see closure to something that has been part of my family’s life for over 100 years—from my great-great-grandfather’s sister Matilda (Tilta) Guenther’s financial contributions in 1882 and 1883 to my mother and I attending the last worship service on September 26, 2010. And, included in these records, are items related to my personal history.