Beacon Street Blog

September 5, 2008

We have added the Tenney Estate Toy Book Collection to our online catalog. Some of the titles included in this collection of toy books are "Advice to Sabbath School Children", "The Good Boy", "The Good Girl", and "The History of Goody Two Shoes: embellished with neat engravings". This collection was presented to the Library in 1947 by Ralph F., Harry W. and Charles A. Tenney. Many woodcuts are included in these small books of juvenile literature.  GoodgirlWoodcut from the wrapper of "The Good Girl":


August 25, 2008

Please join our Executive Director, Peggy Bendroth, on September 18 at 5 p.m. in celebrating her latest publication, A School of the Church: Andover Newton Across Two Centuries, a 200th anniversary history of Andover Newton Theological Seminary.

Books will be available for the signing. Refreshments served.

Please RSVP to Claudette Newhall or 617-523-0740 x 1.

August 22, 2008

Park Street Church spirePeggy Bendroth, author, historian, and Executive Director of the Library, is now offering her popular historic walking tour by request and reservation only. The cost is $10 for an approximately 90 minute tour. Peggy guides participants to the city's famous landmarks, from Old South Church to Park Street Church.

She will offer these tours through mid-October. Peggy's focus is on the Congregational history of Boston and its early leaders. Groups are welcome. For additional information and to reserve a tour time, please contact Peggy at 617-523-0470 x 5 or

All tours begin at 14 Beacon St., 2nd Fl., Library Reading Room.

August 15, 2008

In August of each year, the Congregational Foundation for Theological Studies (NACCC) conducts the Boston Seminar at the Congregational Library in Boston, Massachusetts. We welcome the students and faculty of this program for the week of August 18-22, 2008.

July 31, 2008

Peggy has returned from the Annual Meeting of the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference held in Buffalo last week. Peggy presented a workshop on Records Management created by our archivist, Jess. She was pleased to able to meet with members on the 4Cs and provide this service to the Conference.

The booklet on Records Management is available on our web site Records Management Guide. If you have questions about your church records, do not hesitate to contact us.

July 30, 2008

Jessica Steytler will be teaching for Simmons Graduate School for Library & Information Science (GSLIS) Continuing Education program again this fall/winter. Please contact Kris Liberman to register.


Archives 2.0

Saturday, October 4, 2008
9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Simmons College, One Palace Road Bldg, Room TBA
Cost: $160

With the world gone mad for all things digital, it's hard to remember that many organizations are still struggling at the rudimentary levels of online activities and technical innovation. However, there is a great deal that a small institution can do with little or no money. Archivist Jessica Steytler will examine available options, illustrated by examples of her work at the Congregational Library (currently undergoing a transformation from quiet and sleepy library to study center of the future). Technologies that will be discussed are wikis, Google Documents/Partnership, Ning – the alternative to social networking, and RSS feeds.  Participants will have a chnce to explore these tools during the class.


Using Primary Sources: a Tutorial for Educators

Saturday, December 6, 2008
9:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Congregational Library
14 Beacon St., Boston, MA 02108

For directions see:
Room TBA

Learning about history can -– and should! -- involve more than just reading a textbook. There is a rich and varied world in manuscripts and archive collections that history books can never penetrate. However, finding a path through these collections can be intimidating, particularly when there are so few opportunities to navigate this 'raw material' of history. This workshop will walk educators through the wilderness of an archive at a basic level. We will discuss definitions, stumbling blocks, and gems that can be shared with their classes. Digital and paper examples will be given. Expect a lot of discussion; the more participants contribute from their own experiences, the better the workshop will be.

July 10, 2008

"A School of the Church" book coverJust published is a new book by our Executive Director, Peggy Bendroth. The book is A School of the Church: Andover Newton across Two Centuries, published by William B. Eerdmans for the two hundredth anniversary of the school.

July 3, 2008

Our next book discussion date has been changed to Thursday, July 24, 2008, noon - 1:00 PM. We will be discussing American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation by Jon Meachem.

July 1, 2008

The Congregational Library now has a page on Facebook. Check it out and become a fan. Get updates on the latest information we post. We look forward to having you join us.

June 24, 2008

Beginning July 1, Peggy Bendroth, historian and library director, teaches a 5 week course on the history of the Congregational denomination. Classes begin at 1:00 PM each Tuesday in July. The cost of the course is $75.00 for all 5 sessions. Scholarships are available. To register or for more information, please call Peggy at 781-523-0470 or email All interested persons are welcome.

To stay informed of events at the Library, sign up for our e-newsletter or visit our web site.

Plymouth Rock

What is this and why is it here at the Congregational Library?

June 20, 2008

The 54th Annual meeting of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches is being held in Plymouth, MA June 21-24. This week we've had several visits from members attending the conference. We are very pleased to have these visitors, provide a tour, and discuss with them what we are doing here. Our Executive Director, Peggy Bendroth, and our Archivist, Jess Steytler, will be in Plymouth this weekend and Monday. Stop by and say hello. Information regarding the library and archive will be available. If you are in Boston, please stop in at 14 Beacon Street. We continue to collect and preserve the rich history of the Congregational Way.

June 17, 2008

There is still time to reserve a spot for this week in the walking tour led by Library Director, Peggy Bendroth. She will guide participants to the city's famous Congregational landmarks from Old South Church to Park Street.

If interested, call Peggy at 617-523-0470 or email her The cost is $10 for a 90 minute tour like no other in Boston. Hope you will join us on one of these dates: June 19, June 23, July 1, July 8, July 15, July 22, July 29, August 7, August 14, August 21, August 28.

June 11, 2008

If you would like our newsletter emailed to you, please fill out the form on our website.

June 11, 2008

A new workshop, "New Technologies in Church Settings" is being offered Monday June 16. Spaces are still available, so please review the seminar page on our website and sign up.

This class will walk participants through the definitions and explore how to use the following:

  • RSS feeds
  • Blogs
  • Wikis
  • Google Applications
  • Alternatives in Social Networking

We will offer this class again in the fall as well.

A technical/meta note: We had been having issue with our "info" email address. It should be fixed now.

May 30, 2008

Antoinette Brown Blackwell After a hiatus, we have added a new podcast to our Instant History section of our website. Find out more about the remarkable Anoinette Brown Blackwell.

Highland Church
Additionally, the Highland Congregational Church, which closed in 2006 and was processed by Simmons Intern Alina Morris has its guide on our website, at long last.

May 21, 2008

New Technology in Church Settings
June 16, 9:30am-2:30pm

Jess_001Archivist Jessica Steytler ( leads this 3/4 day seminar on internet based technologies. This class will be very helpful to anyone within a church setting trying to improve communications within the office or with committees/groups; managing online reading/fact-finding; interested in creating an online community specifically for your church or region. All the new tools explored do not require any financial commitment beyond having a computer and an internet connection. Specific technologies under discussion include wikis, the NING social networking site, RSS feeds, and blogs.

Participants are encouraged to bring a laptop for the practical applications. Lunch included
Cost: $20 per person
Limit: 10 people per session

QUESTIONS: Call 617-523-0470

May 16, 2008

Jessica Steytler will be offering her advice at the UCC Massachusetts Conference WebFest on May 31. She will be discussing "Intra-church communication through your site" during one of the morning slots. Featured tools will include: Wikis and the NING social networking site, and Google applications. There will be a lot of opportunity for collaboration and asking questions.

May 14, 2008

There is still time to register for the workshops scheduled for May 20, 2008. "Where do I start?" a seminar on research using the collections of the Congregational Library and "Records Management" a seminar for church historians and other record keepers are each a half day. You can sign up for one or both. Lunch is on your own. See our website for registration or email administrative assistant Sarah James

May 9, 2008

Our Brown Bag Book Discussion will take place Tuesday, May 13 at 12 Noon in the Library's Pratt Room. Please bring your lunch and join us for a lively discussion of one of the infamous Salem Witch Trial judges. If time and weather permit, we will take a short walk to the crypt of the Sewall family in the Granary Burial Ground behind us. Or you can look out our Reading Room windows and view the site.

Here are some links to reviews of this book. We look forward to hearing your comments:

New York Times Review of Eve LaPlante's Salem Witch Judge.

Eve LaPlante's website

Boston Globe Review of Salem Witch Judge.

May 2, 2008

Beginning June 2, 2008, the Library will be open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM and Wednesday from 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM. We will be continuing to offer later hours by appointment.

Please contact us if you have any questions.

April 23, 2008

We are pleased to announce that we have received a grant in the amount of $18,000 from the H.W. Wilson Foundation. This grant will assist us in our pilot digitization project to digitize Hal Worthley's inventory of church records and begin digitizing some of the Seventeenth century records from Massachusetts churches in our archives. We thank the Wilson Foundation for their generous support.

April 17, 2008

Check out our website for all our up coming events. We have book discussions in May, June, and July. Our popular workshops on records management and research are back in May. Jess is begging a workshop on Technology for Churches. Our library tours continue through out the summer and Peggy will begin offering walking tours of Congregational Boston in June. In July, Peggy will teach a course on Congregational History. Keep watching for more information.

April 15, 2008

Archivist Jessica Steytler will be teaching a class for the Simmons Graduate School for Information and Library Science (GSLIS) Continuing Education program here at the library on May 3, 9am-12:30pm

Using Primary Sources: a Tutorial for Educators

Learning about history can involve more than just reading a textbook—and should! There is a rich and varied world in manuscripts and archive collections that history books can never present. However, finding a path through these collections can be intimidating, particularly when there are so few opportunities to navigate this 'raw material' of history. This workshop will walk educators through the wilderness of an archive—highlighting effective research techniques, pitfalls and stumbling blocks, and gems that they can share with their classes. Participants will try out some practical applications within the Congregational Library based on the theories discussed during class.

Please contact Kris Liberman at GSLIS CE to sign up. Deadline April 30.

April 11, 2008

"Salem Witch Judge" coverPlease join us on May 13 at 12 noon for a lively discussion of Eve LePlante's book, Salem Witch Judge: The Life and Repentance of Samuel Sewall. Check out Eve LaPlante's website for book discussion questions and hear and see her interview on WGBH.

We have several copies of Sewall's Diary on display at the Library as well as books on the Witch Trials.

Please visit our website for additional events and book discussions. Questions? Email us at

April 7, 2008

Last week we had two groups come in for tours. The first was the Women's Guild with their pastor from the First Congregational Church of Rochester, MA. The ladies presented the library with a copy of "A History of the First Congregational Church of Rochester, 1703-2003" and a beautiful 300th Anniversary commemorative plate. We were delighted to share the history of our library and collections and have the group view some of our rare treasures from our archive including some unusual Bibles from our Pratt Collection.

The next day we hosted a group of librarians from the Boston Regional Library System. They also had the opportunity to feast their eyes on our outstanding collections. We discussed the history and services of the Library, Congregationalism, and the history of Boston. Phyllis Payne, a librarian from Mugar Library at Boston University, presented the library with a copy of "The Federated Church of Norfolk: a Bicentennial History".

Group tours are always welcome. To make arrangements, please contact Claudette Newhall or Peggy Bendroth or call 617-523-0470.

We also continue our twice monthly tours on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month. No reservations for these tours are necessary.

April 1, 2008

This summer, Peggy Bendroth, our resident church historian, will be conducting a five-week exploration of the Congregational Christian tradition. We'll talk about worship, music, theology, social outreach--as much as we can manage in our all-too-limited time frame! We will even find time to walk around downtown Boston and learn about the local Congregational history there.

The class will meet on Tuesday afternoons during the month of July 2008, and cover as much key material as we can through reading, discussion, and maybe even a few lecture presentations. Come one, come all! No previous historical expertise is required or assumed. Registration materials are in the works -- for now, direct inquiries to Peggy at 617-523-0470 x5.

April 1, 2008

We have just received a beautiful new edition of the 1648 Cambridge Platform from Skinner House Books. The text of this formative document -- the so-called "constitution" of the Congregational Way -- is supplemented by a preface from the editor, Peter Hughes, and a very clear and accessible introduction by Alice Blair Wesley.

It's a key text of our tradition, now available in book form, for a mere $8.00! I encourage every Congregational church to purchase at least one copy. They're available through the UUA Bookstore, either online or by phone (1-800-215-9076).

March 31, 2008

Our popular seminars are still open for registration. Records Management for Church Historians will take place on Saturday, April 5. This half day workshop includes suggestions on evaluating records, basic processing, and preservation. Cost $10.00.

Research 101: Library Orientation is a full day research workshop taking place on  Thursday, April 17. Topics include an introduction to American Congregational history, the components of church records, a description of the library's collections, methods for using these collections, and suggestions for additional research sites. Cost $20.00 includes lunch.

Please visit our website to register or call 617-523-0470 x 4.

March 27, 2008

Sorry we haven't posted for a while. We've been busy for the past month getting our plans together for spring, summer, and fall programs, tours, and educational seminars. We have activities that should appeal to many from a return of our popular seminars on Records Management, our Brown Bag lunch series, and new tours and seminars.

Watch this space for the specifics coming soon.

February 28, 2008

I just started a new online community yesterday. It clearly was a niche in need of this tool, as we've gotten 54 members in the first 24 hours. If you are an archivist who works in a solo environment, either alone in the department or in the whole organization, please join us:

Visit Lone Arrangers

February 14, 2008

This spring, I put together a list of books I wanted to read. Of course, in a lot of ways, I read for a living; but lately, I’ve been a lot more haphazard than I'd like to be. I wanted a list of books that would stretch my understanding of American religious history, and fill in some old gaps. If I'm not careful, my interest in Congregationalism tends to focus my reading far too much on New England. So I've purposefully reached in a number of disparate directions.

One good stretch was Paul Harvey's Freedom Coming: Religious Culture and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War Through the Civil Rights Era, which tells an important "backstory" to the rise of the civil rights movement.

Harvey traces a strain of religious idealism, tempered by the dire realities of life in the South in the century following the end of the Civil War. To be sure, our current understanding of that movement assumes that Martin Luther King and those who followed him were "religious", somehow inspired by ideals imparted both by Gandhi and by Christ; but Harvey adds some backbone to that often vague depiction. He offers a lineage of people, both white and black, who were fundamentally decent and courageous enough to mount a long, slow challenge to the system of racial apartheid that emerged in the wake of the war to end slavery.

Many little-known but important stories emerge, including a regular array of Congregationalists. Henry Hugh Proctor was a graduate of the denomination’s Fisk University, attending alongside W.E.B. DuBois and Margaret Murray, the future wife of Booker T. Washington. As pastor of Atlanta’s First Congregational Church, arriving there in 1894, he somewhat split the difference between DuBois and Washington's strategies for black survival. He encouraged self-help and biracial cooperation efforts through Christian Endeavor societies and Workingmen's Clubs. But in the midst of the Atlanta riot of 1906, which Harvey describes as "the single worst racist pogrom of the era," (60) resulting in the killing of twenty African Americans and the injuring of hundreds more, Proctor demanded that white churches take responsibility for the violence. Denouncing white preachers as "the most cowardly character[s] in the whole Southern situation," he won precious few allies, and perhaps in the end, demonstrated the deep difficulties that any ethic of interracial cooperation encountered during that desperate turn of the century period.

But all in all, Harvey's book is an uplifting read and a vastly interesting one, deepening our understanding of the civil rights movement and providing a few fascinating clues for those looking for the roots of the modern religious right. Harvey argues most provocatively that because the civil rights movement was so effective in squelching public support for overt racism, that incipient strain surfaced in attitudes toward gender. He explains, at least in part, the Southern Baptist tilt toward anti-feminism in the 1980s and beyond, as a different cultural manifestation of an old southern strain of ambivalence toward liberal democracy.

More to follow -- I'm still reading.

---Peggy Bendroth, Library Director

February 14, 2008

If anyone had been looking to contact the staff between 2/11 and 2/14 via email, please try again. The nature of the malfunction was such that people wouldn't have gotten error messages.

February 13, 2008

I'll be teaching "Archives 2.0" at Simmons main campus from 9:30-12:30 (or there abouts) on March 1.

This is part of the Simmons Library School (GSLIS) continuing education program.

"Archives 2.0" will cover what RSS, Wikis, Blogs, and such-like are. How are they useful and particularly how are they useful to archivists?

If you are interested in finding out more about this class, please contact Jessica Steytler. If you're interested in signing up for this class, please contact Kris Liberman at GSLIS CE.

January 22, 2008

We will now be open evening hours by appointment. We will be happy to schedule your request to start or continue your research between the hours of 4:30 and 7:00PM, Monday through Thursday. We ask that you contact us at least a week in advance to arrange your after hours stay or visit. We will need your name, phone number, email, as well as your area of study and which, if any, archival materials you intend to request.

Contact Claudette Newhall or call 617-523-0470 x1 to arrange the date and time for your visit. You will be notified if we are able to accommodate your request.

We look forward to hearing from you.

January 2, 2008

Today's find on the Library shelves is "A Line a day". This is Dr. Alonzo Hall Quint's appointment book kept for him by Miss Mary Stone for the years 1894-1896. Dr. Quint was a clergyman and an editor. He was one of the Incorporators of the American Congregational Association in 1853. He was a Trustee of Dartmouth College and served as Secretary of the National Council of Congregational Churches of the United States from its organization in 1871. On April 30, 1894 the book lists "Meeting of Library Committee, 11:30 A.M." Other dates list meetings of the Dartmouth Board, the Andover Visitors, the Winthrop Club, the National Council as well as ACA Board meetings.

This book will be accessioned into the archives.

December 5, 2007

We are trying a new method of reaching people for our activities and events. If you are interested in joining our group, please visit our Yahoo! group.

December 5, 2007

Reading Room 2007 Beginning on January 8, 2008 at 2 PM, tours of the library will be available. These tours will be conducted the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. These introductory tours will include the history of the library, its collections, and services.

No reservations are necessary. Please call 617-523-0470 x 1 with any questions.

Directions and other information are available at our website.

October 11, 2007

On Wednesday, November 28, 2007 the Congregational Library will co-host a lecture by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Debby Applegate. Her book, The Most Famous Man in America: A Biography of Henry Ward Beecher, was published in 2006 to wide acclaim. The Library is very fortunate to be cosponsoring this free public lecture with the Old South Church in Boston, as their annual Crawford Lecture, held in honor of former pastor (and Library board member) James Crawford. The event will begin at 7pm at Old South, 645 Boylston Street in Boston's Copley Square.

On Tuesday, November 13, we'll have a book discussion of The Most Famous Man in America in the Pratt Room in the Library.  All are welcome -- just bring your lunch and we'll provide soda and chips, plus our resident church historian Peggy Bendroth, who will talk about the religious culture of Beecher's GIlded Age era and about some of the critical response to Applegate's book.  We'll begin at noon and end at 1:00.

October 1, 2007

Hello! I'm back from my sabbatical and already we're planning a lot of great stuff.

Please note, we will be having our Research 101 for Church Historians workshop again on November 16th. Please sign up as soon as you can and bring a friend. It's only 20 dollars for a whole day of information and guided study -- lunch is included.

Additionally, I am teaching 2 courses through the Simmons Continuing Education program on November 3 here at the library. The morning class is entitled "Joining the 21st Century: Integrating Current Technology into Antiquated Institutions". We will be discussing various options, such as wikis, blogs, and LibraryThing.

The afternoon class is "Using Primary Sources, a Tutorial for Educators".

Learn more and sign up at the Simmons website.


September 14, 2007


I've had a very lovely summer off. I'll be back in a few more weeks, but in the meantime, I've been to give a presentation in Milwaukee (or technically Oak Creek) this past week. We have photographic evidence to prove it! Jessica teaching in Oak CreekSince visiting the blog, I realized that I ended up wearing the same shirt here as at UCC Synod. I promise you, viewing audience, I do have more. I just really like this one.

Jessica with staff in Oak CreekThe topic of the talk, once again, was Records Management for Churches. Many have yet to hear my little song and dance, so it's not yet old.

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge

-- Jessica

August 29, 2007

We recently became aware that our address was not working properly. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. We are having this address fixed and it will be operational again soon.

July 13, 2007

As of the beginning of September we will be losing our wonderful administrative assistant, Beth Spaulding, who has received an incredible fellowship from Boston University to continue her doctoral studies full time. We are now looking for a part time administrative assistant to take her place. If you or someone you know is interested, please see the job description and application details on our website.

June 29, 2007

Jessica, Beth, and Peggy returned safely from Synod this week and now we have photos to share with you! You can find the link on the left hand bar of the page, or go directly to the gallery.

Jessica and Beth at Synod

June 29, 2007

Yesterday we had a visitors from Kyoto, Japan. The Vice Principal of the Doshisha Elementary School, Hiroyuki Okuno, and Arisa Furimoto, the teacher in the "Hardy" classroom are in Boston to arrange their students' exchange visit next year to Boston as sister cities. They were delight to see the bust of Alpheus Hardy and our collection of Neesima and Doshisha University books displayed in the Pratt Room. They added to our collection a Doshisha Elementary School flag, a map of Kyoto detailing the schools, and a guide book to the Doshisha schools. They were pleased to see that we are telling the story of Neesima to our visitors here in Boston.

June 21, 2007

I highly recommend watching the following video from the site. It's about 4 minutes long and gives a great, real life example of what a wiki is and why they can be helpful. Wikis in Plain English.

For those of you going to Synod this week, Peggy Bendroth, Jessica Steytler, and Beth Spaulding will be there! Visit us in the exhibit hall at the Historical Council table.

June 20, 2007

Do you know where your old records are?

  • Those ledger books and pastors' diaries tell the story of your congregation’s past. If they become lost or damaged, they are gone forever.
  • Old records are also an invaluable historical resource. If they are locked away in a closet, their stories are lost as well.

The Congregational Library is now accepting applications from churches for microfilming grants.

  • We will cover costs of preparation and filming for records dating before 1800.
  • The Library will keep an additional microfilm reel to supplement its collection of Congregational church records. We strongly encourage individual congregations to place old and fragile records on permanent loan in the library archives.

Inquiries about microfilm grants and about permanent loans should be directed to Peggy Bendroth, Executive Director

Not sure where those old records are or how to find them? The Library also offers seminars and resource materials on records management for local churches. Inquiries about these services should be directed to the Library Archivist, Jessica Steytler

The Congregational Library
14 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108

More information is available on our website

June 7, 2007

We have bookmarks in support of the Mass Mentoring Partnership and the Red Sox Mentoring Challenge. There is a shortage of volunteers to mentor thousands of kids across Massachusetts. For more information or to sign up, Step up to the Plate! Be a Mentor.

June 7, 2007

I'm very pleased to report that I have completed the guide for the Mass. Council, and the collection is now represented in our catalog. I'm in frequent communication with the Council and they are currently working on an addition to the collection, as is the way of active organizations. We expect the rate of new material to even out as soon as outgoing director, Diane Kessler, finishes clearing her office files. Researchers are welcome to start researching. Please email us to inquire about our research travel grants for this specific collection.

-- Jessica Steytler