Beacon Street Diary

May 8, 2006

If you are in the Concord, NH area on Thursday night, don't miss David W. Stowe's lecture "Psalms and Hymns in the Lives of American Congregationalists". See the CCHS website for details. The lecture is free and begins at 7:30. David is the author of How Sweet the Sound : Music in the Spiritual Lives of Americans. See Barnes & Noble's book description for more details.

May 5, 2006

We're sending off our last batch of 5,000 cards to our conversion vendor today. You should see these records in our catalog by mid-June. We're continuing to work on adding the local copy information to the records we downloaded at the end of March. We'll be taking some time to review sections of our collections and shift books in the stacks before we send more cards out. We've removed numerous duplicate copies from the stacks and are selling them where possible. We listed a couple of items for sale on : 52 Story Sermons and Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible in 5 volumes. We'll be listing more there as we go along.

May 1, 2006

Special Educational Program offered on June 14, 2006.

We are offering a special research seminar to church historians, archivists, or any interested lay people who would enjoy a day of research into their congregation's past. We will also provide resources for planning anniversary celebrations and commemorative services.

The library and archive contain many wonderful resources. We have local church records, town histories, conference records, and denominational yearbooks dating back to the 1850s. Our collection also includes a wide variety of 18th and 19th century hymnals and sermons.

Your day at the Congregational library will include hands on instruction in searching and using our collections, a guided tour of the facilities, and an afternoon of guide research. Lunch will be provided. Registration fee (lunch included) is $20.00.

Please contact Jessica Steytler or 617-523-0470 to have a brochure mailed to you or if you have any questions.

We look forward to seeing you in Boston on June 14.

April 26, 2006

Do you have some time on your hands? Would you like to be involved with worthwhile projects? Are you a book or library person? For as little as one-two hours per week, you can be a volunteer at the Congregational Library. We have projects involving reference, circulation, greeting visitors, automating the library catalog, arranging exhibits, reviewing and organizing non-book materials. Let us know what your interests are and we'll match you with an opportunity. Contact Claudette at

We welcome you.

April 21, 2006

Jess received a copy of Holy Granite on High Ground : A 300-year history of the Second Congregational Church of Greenwich, Connecticut by Ralph E. Ahlberg. The Congregational Library received photo credit for the copy of the 1682 The Whole Book of Psalms on page 23. This church history book is filled with photos and illustrations chronicling the church from its founding to the present day. It contains a time line and lists of Second Church ministers and church council presidents. From the dust cover: "...the story of this community -- of the parishioners, lay leaders, administrators, volunteers and pastors who for three centuries have kept the Christian flame burning in downtown Greenwich." We're very pleased to add this book to our collection.

April 13, 2006

We recently cataloged a Bible in our collection that was given "In memory of Joseph Sylvester Clark, first secretary and devoted friend, when friends were few, of the Congregational Library Association, presented by his son." This Bible is now on display with other Bibles from our stacks. The title page reads: "The Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments : translated out of the original tongues and with the former translations diligently compared and revised, by His Majesty's special command. Appointed to be read in churches." This Bible was published in London by George R. Eyre and William Spottiswoode in 1871.

April 6, 2006

Here is Peggy's lecture: An Open Door: Old South Church. If you missed the series, all the lectures including Peggy's two and Beth's are posted here with slides and podcast. Peggy was able to research material here for her latest lecture because we hold the historic records of Old South. Indeed, we have records from many churches in our archives and library. Check out our website and link to our catalog to explore our collections.

April 4, 2006

You may have noticed that our automated catalog record numbers have increased over night by 6,000. This was a download of records converted from cards to electronic records by our conversion vendor. We are now busy adding the local information to these records. I find that I stop frequently to look at the books that I'm adding into the records. Today, a small book piqued my curiosity : Rev. George Champion, pioneer missionary to the Zulus : Sketch of his life and extracts from his journal, 1834-8. This is a short book, only 51 pages, and sadly, Rev. Champion's life was also short. Several entries caught my eye as I quickly scanned the pages (I'm supposed to be cataloging, not reading).

1837, Jan. 2 -- "I killed a snake, have killed several before. It has frightened some of the Zulus. I had killed a man, they say, for the spirit of a man dwelt in the snake."

1838, Feb 13 -- I sent to the king that I was not afraid, that I trusted in my God, The question rises, shall we flee the coming storm? If we leave, it may be difficult to return when war is over, and Christ's cause may suffer."

Rev. and Mrs. Champion did leave in 1839 and never returned to Africa.

This book was a gift from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (A.B.C.F.M.).

March 31, 2006

This year marks the Bicentennial of the 1806 Haystack Prayer Meeting in Williamstown, Massachusetts, an event which has long been celebrated as the birth of American foreign missions. Down through the years, the story of that prayer meeting has often been told, but not always accurately. For example, it has sometimes been said that at that meeting, the five Williams College students all dedicated themselves to be foreign missionaries. My research indicates that that statement is incorrect in two ways.

1. The agreement the students reached at that haystack was to send the gospel overseas to Asia's non-Christians. While Samuel Mills Jr. had already dedicated himself to be a foreign missionary, that doesn’t seem to have been the case with the other four students at that meeting. However, growing out of that 1806 prayer meeting and subsequent ones, Mills and other Williams students formed the Brethren in 1808, all of whose members were required to be committed to taking the gospel overseas themselves personally. That group has sometimes been called the "First Foreign Missionary Society in America." In 1810 the Brethren was transferred to Andover Theological Seminary and subsequently the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was formed.

2. At the Haystack Prayer Meeting, one of the five students, Harvey Loomis, disagreed with the other four. Loomis thought it was premature to send the gospel overseas to Asia, as he feared those missionaries would be murdered. So, he neither supported the idea nor joined the other four students at the haystack in their prayers for foreign missions.

Do you have questions to ask or thoughts to share about the Haystack Prayer Meeting? This blog can be a good forum for that.

-Rev. Dr. Doug Showalter

March 31, 2006

Interested in helping the Congregational Library? Have some free time? Would you like to learn more about our collections and the Library and Archives? Want to create displays, help with events, shelve books, review materials, organize files, greet and welcome visitors, catalog books? We have volunteer opportunities available.

Contact us by calling 617-523-0470 x 229. If you have even an hour a week, we have a job for you.