For most of us, to “seize the day” (just in case your Latin is a little rusty) means to make the most of each day we are given. Or, as David put it in Psalm 118:24 (CEV), “This day belongs to the Lord! Let’s celebrate and be glad today.”
How much do you remember about the pandemic? And here, I am not speaking of COVD-19, but the flu pandemic of the last century. I assumed as people sheltered and churches stopped meeting that we had never experienced anything like this before; I discovered that I knew very little about the outbreak of 1918 or had just forgotten it.
When Word&Way, the publication I worked for, interviewed a university professor about the 1918 pandemic, he went back in our online archives to read how it was covered back then. There was power in that history.
A church library can be the repository of those things that fall under the heading of “What do we do with this?” That can include our church history.
One definition of “seize” is to grab or take. Another definition of seize is to “take and hold.” Regardless of who stores and handles your church history, the library can be a part of preserving these historical times through involvement or sponsoring activities, such as:
Collecting church materials. How has your church communicated with members and others? Are there copies of any restrictions put in place? Do you have pictures of any COVID-related signage? People worshipping with masks or in a parking lot service? Recordings of any services?
Comparing church materials. If your church is old enough to have experienced the 1918 flu pandemic, are there materials that can be displayed? Are there members who have relatives that told stories about it that can be collected? How could the materials from 1918 be compared to today’s COVID materials?
Collecting and digitizing local news. Are churches in your area supportive or resistant to restrictions? How has your church and others in your community been covered by print and broadcast media? Can you compile your church’s social media posts to make available for future generations?
Collecting first person stories. Some of the most powerful stories can come from your church staff and congregation in audio or video recordings. You could compile a collection of written accounts as well.
Start by creating a list of questions to ask and set aside times to record oral histories. Some sample questions:
- What did the church do in response to COVID?
- Where you scared? Did your opinions change when more people died?
- How did your ministers feel?
- What was Easter like without churches meeting?
- Did you know anyone who died of COVID?
- When did the church decide to start meeting again, and what precautions were put in place?
- How did the church minister while not meeting?
- How has the worship service changed?
Continue collecting. We do not have a vaccine in place, and some reports indicate that we may not be close to the end. How will this affect Thanksgiving? Christmas? Holiday programs? Continue to gather materials, news, and stories to document these unique times we live in so that future generations will be able to discover what happened today.
Who knows? One day, people may look back and learn from our experiences.
Ken Satterfield has more than three decades of experience in media and library ministry. He is currently a freelancer living in Jefferson City, Missouri.
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