Beacon Street Diary

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.

March 30, 2006

Dear Congregational Christian Historical Society Friends:

Winter is slowly rolling away and it is almost time for spring meeting. This year we will host Prof. David Stowe, a long-time friend of CCHS and author of a wonderful book on music and religion, How Sweet the Song: Music in the Spiritual Lives of Americans, published by Harvard University Press in 2004. Dr. Stowe is Professor of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures and director of American Studies at Michigan State University. He will be speaking to us about the history of Congregational hymnody. It’s sure to be an engaging and informative time for all—we may even sing!

The event is planned for Thursday, May 11, 2006 and will be held at the New Hampshire Conference of the United Church of Christ in Concord. The schedule for the evening and directions to the conference center are enclosed. A very inexpensive $15.00 registration fee will cover the cost of dinner, during which we will present our annual Guptill and Fagley awards, and the lecture. The deadline for registrations is Friday, May 5, 2006.

Would you please also take this opportunity to support CCHS with a donation? A good many of you have already sent in annual gifts, and we are very grateful for these. But we still depend on the generosity of our members to keep the work going and to put on a meeting that we can all be proud of. Even if you are not able to come to the meeting, we'd appreciate your support. With a gift of $25 or more we would be happy to send a copy of Dr. Stowe's presentation.

We're very glad for all of our members, and look forward to seeing you in May. We're hoping for beautiful weather, a stimulating lecture, a great turnout, and time to renew old acquaintances and make new ones. We'll look forward to hearing from you!

Margaret Bendroth
CCHS Archivist/Secretary

Please send all registrations to CCHS at 14 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108. Thanks so much! Additionally, there is a basic review of this spring's program at the CCHS website.

March 29, 2006

We've added a Frappr (Friend mapper) map today. Please click on the map title (Congregational) if you would like to add yourself to the map. We'd like to see where you are.

March 24, 2006

The mailing for the Annual Meeting of the Congregational Christian Historical Society went out today. We hope that you will join us on May 11, 2006 in Concord, NH for the business meeting, dinner, Guptill and Fagley Awards and to hear Professor David W. Stowe's lecture, "Psalms and Hymns in the Lives of American Congregationalists".

Registration and donation forms are enclosed in the mailing. Information will also be posted on the CCHS website.