The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Congregational history

Connect memory with promise

Question: What do nonprofit research, the Old Testament books of 1 and 2 Chronicles, and a congregational historian have in common?

Answer: They all know the power of memory.

Researchers Paul F. Salipante and Karen Golden-Biddle discovered that for nonprofit organizations, oral and written histories contained inspiring stories about overcoming adversity which, when remembered and celebrated, served as reliable guides to how they would perform in the future.

King David’s question to God was: “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?” (1 Chronicles 17:16). The endless lists of names and the description of important events in 1 and 2 Chronicles are the “family album” that prompts David’s question.

David marvels at the album and asks, “All this, thus far? Is there more to come? What do you have in mind? We have seen your guidance and care demonstrated time after time in our history (memory), O God. What possibly will you be doing with and through us in the time yet to be?”

Meet a modern-day chronicler. Doris Tilley has served St. Paul Lutheran, Durham, N.C., as congregational historian since 1973. Her first challenge was to recapture the origins of the congregation by interviewing the 12 charter members or their descendants and locating scattered records. “Those 12 were brave souls,” she said, as she described the nursing of the congregation into being in 1922 and keeping it going through the Depression.

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