As a recently minted and settled minister, I am acutely aware of my lack of awareness some of the recent giants in our movement. I found Rev. Clary's article in First Days Record in the October 95 issue criticizing the way the UUMA Convocation was designed thought provoking. His criticism of the absence of the voices like A. Powell Davies, Steve Fritchman, Alice Harrison, Joe Barth and others who have struggled a lifetime with the enduring center question got me thinking about why that is.
The answer that comes to my mind right away is the lack of access to their work. Sermons, even if they are published go into files and are soon forgotten. Books published by ministers are more often of the vanity press variety meaning small runs and distribution. A. Powell Davies is an excellent example. I know many people who praise the man up and down but what of his works is still in print? If I wanted to get to know this famous minister, how would I gain access to his words?
I'm probably like many ministers - I read what is available at GA in the UUA Bookstore and the Beacon Press. I read what other ministers give me when they retire or clean out their libraries. I read what my parishioners give me from their dear old ministers of their youth. I just don't have access to the jewels of these giants rarely available in public or even university libraries.
With the dawn of the Internet, we live in an entirely new age of information storage and retrieval. Large databases of historical documents can be assembled and disseminated freely to all who are interested through the World Wide Web. Such databases can be indexed and searched by word or topic to further make the work more accessable. Imagine being able to have immediate access to primary sources from Wilber's library, the Transcendentalists, archives of Unitarian and Universalist journals, all of Channing's or Parker's work and others from your study with the touch of a button. This kind of electronic distribution can be of great benefit to help us shape our ministries not just from the immediacy of our times and our own personal experiences but from the reflections and inspiration of those who have walked our Unitarian and Universalist paths of ministry.
With this goal in mind, I announce the formation of The Enduring Center Project: Electronic Archiving of Our History. If you are interesting in either contributing documents or assisting in the document conversion and have the necessary equipment or are interested in grant writing to fund this project, please contact me.
I undertake this project remembering the voices of ministers I have loved that have vanished from common discourse as well as thinking of today's voices which will be lost for tomorrow. We all have a stake in this vital project to strengthen our ministry and our movement. I feel fortunate to be able to contribute my software engineering skills in a way which I believe will greatly benefit all of us.
(Note: Please feel free to copy and forward this to the ends of the earth and especially parties to whom this would be of interest - extra especially so if they control grant money!)
published in First Days Record (2/96). If you would like to subscribe to FDR send a note to:
First Days Record