Forum 81 - Apr 2012

(see below for some excerpts)

Something more than Gold! Ready for Launching

A 200 page book telling the story of Baptists in Central Queensland will be launched on Friday May 18 at the QB Convention in Rockhampton. Titled Something more than Gold, this book contains more than 100 illustrations and several maps. It covers the eleven churches that have existed in Rockhampton and fourteen in the region, as well as the CQ District Association, camping and QBC activities.

It is the first overall coverage of Baptist witness in this area which has seen dedicated work by large number of people, not all of which has survived. Conditions during the 150 years have varied, and in some cases churches have declined and later revived. In other situations, efforts came to nothing, or buildings and ministries passed to other denominations.

The book has been prepared by Baptist Heritage Queensland with the help of a large number of people from the area. In years gone by, a few churches and other ministries have produced their own histories; details from these have been used, but a great deal of new information has been obtained from participants, newspapers and other sources which has incorporated into the book. A guide to more than 30 heritage sites in Rockhampton and nearby has also been prepared and is available on request.

The book contains a Foreword by Rev Dr Chris Ganter, Senior Pastor of Rockhampton Baptist Tabernacle. It will be dedicated by Rev Barry Downes, Associate Pastor of the Tabernacle, who ministered in the city in the 1970s and now has special responsibility for developing ministries in the region.

Pre-publication orders are now being received for the book which costs $15 plus postage. The 2005 history of Baptists in Queensland, Pressing on with the Gospel, is also available as a bundle at $25 plus postage.  Contact Baptist Church Qld Archives, PO Box 6166, Mitchelton Q 4053; or phone 07 3878 3178  

Archives Going Digital

The story of Gatton Baptist Churchs history (told elsewhere in this issue) as saved, displayed and recorded by Mrs Eunice Cowell is a remarkable example of what can be achieved by someone dedicated to the task. It is all the more significant because it is a hand written account and illustrated by many pictures taken by the author with a film camera. Surely it means that others with more advanced equipment could equal this, and do more.

The records are mainly paper minute books, membership rolls, magazines, newspaper clippings and the rest but increasingly church records are digital word processing documents, accounting programmes, spreadsheets, emails, digital pictures and videos. Then there are the uncaptured decisions which were discussed and finalised by mobile phone or text. Digital processing seems to generate many more records than before, and they are scattered around many storages devices such as floppy disks, hard drives, flash memory sticks, or at some web storage site. They are harder to manage and tabulate, and it seems they are near impossible to identify, or to retrieve when needed.

So the task of the Archivist is the same, only different the same because the need will always be there, as with traditional paper records, to create, preserve, organise and retrieve the vital information about an organisations life. However it is different because the process is new and unfamiliar and so there are no established procedures; the volume of material is much greater; the storage processes and locations are more complex; and the requirements for sorting, identifying and retrieving are more elusive. Then there are the huge problems of rapidly changing technology which include hardware that goes obsolete, software needing to be upgraded and storage media that changes and deteriorates. There is also a personnel factor many more people are involved in the whole process from the original creation of records, through to the selection of material for retention, actual preservation, storage and accession.

Whereas traditional records sat in a filing cabinet and everyone knew how to preserve them and when to move them to the Archives, today the records are invisible and difficult to identify, no one knows who is responsible for them, and the cost of providing storage, management and access and the need for continually updating technology means that it is a forbidding task. We have not even mentioned questions of security and guarantees about authenticity of data or legal issues surrounding what constitutes an official record when it is not exactly the media that it sits on or the digital ones and zeroes that constitutes the original record!

Churches and denominational organisations are moving quickly to a no-paper, digital environment. This means new procedures and policies are needed. Baptist Heritage Queensland and the Baptist Church Archives Qld are working on the problem and have updated their Guide for Managing Church Records to reflect the new situation (ask for one!). Briefly, it includes the recommendation that if a church does not have an advanced digital office with sophisticated IT support, it should continue to store its important records in paper form. This means Minutes of core organisations (Deacons/Board/Council and other departments of the church), annual reports, financial statements and key other documents should be printed out on good quality paper and bound strongly. These should be clearly labelled and kept in cool, dry and insect proof condition under the care of an authorised officer of the church, or deposited in the Baptist Archives or other such repository. Books, magazines, photographs, videos and other useful material should be preserved similarly. The church should develop a clear and comprehensive policy on the creation, storage and use of their vital records. This policy needs to be reviewed regularly and the storage conditions and material need to be checked frequently.

Churches that have good IT support should ensure that suitable hardware and software are installed, and adequate storage services acquired. Then staff need to be trained to create appropriate records of the churchs business and activities. The files of these records should be carefully selected so that all the key documents are included and readily identifiable. These should then be carefully tagged, backed up and archived to reliable permanent media, catalogued and stored in optimum conditions either at the church or elsewhere. Note that it is important to distinguish between backing up data in case of a disaster such as hardware failure or fire, and the permanent retention of data for archival purposes which requires better arrangements for organisation and retrieval, and for perpetual storage. Specialist advice is needed to ensure that archival quality hardware and software is installed. Help is needed with training all those involved in the process, including any staff who create records as well as those given the responsibility of caring for the records archivally.

Archived electronic records should be under the control of an authorised officer, and come under the same kind of policy as for paper records. It will be necessary to select suitable file formats and media for the storage of documents so that they can be accessed well into the future by people such as officers of the church and researchers wanting information. It will also be necessary for future church officers to be able to access this material so it can be transferred to new media with appropriate software before technology changes and leaves existing software and media obsolescent, thus losing the records and information completely.

In both paper and e-records, full attention should be given to developing a church policy to govern the creation and retention of adequate records. In contrast with earlier times, many discussions and decisions now take place orally, by phone or by email. Furthermore, instead of a group of people working together and coming to a decision about plans and developments, it is more common now for this kind of activity to be handled by an individual without the same kind of record keeping as before. The key elements of oral and email discussion and individual decision making need to be recorded and preserved.

There are many reasons why the recording of this information and the careful preservation of paper and digital records is important. The most obvious that proper and responsible administration of any organisation, especially a church, needs an adequate record of its activities. Then effective planning for the future depends on proper knowledge of the past which is provided by the records of the church. Perhaps the most critical reason for a properly managed Archives system is that church officers and employees need legal protection to cover their activities; the lack of recognized records leaves people vulnerable to costly litigation and embarrassment to the individual and church, and financial cost which could be crippling.

Finally, and most importantly, the life of the church needs to be recorded because it is the testimony of Gods people and of Gods Kingdom at work lose that record and we lose an important part of our existence! So the records need to be preserved properly so that people in the future can learn the story of God at work in our midst.

Warwick Baptist Church Centenary Celebrations 18-20 Nov 2011

Bill Hughes, Baptist Heritage Queensland

On 19 November 1911 then President of the Baptist Association of Queensland (now called the Baptist Union of Queensland) conducted the opening services of the newly formed Warwick Baptist Church. On 18-20 November 2011 the church celebrated its centenary with three days of celebrations. Bill Hughes wrote a centenary history for Warwick and also participated in the celebrations. He reports here on the events and our articles also includes some information from his history about the Warwick church.

Warwick The Rose City

Warwick would have to be one of the most beautiful provincial cities in Australia, and it looked its best in the Spring of 2011 with the roses beginning to bloom down the main street and the gardens and parks around the city looking extra tidy and ablaze with colour.

The citizens of Warwick are a friendly lot and as Roslyn and I wandered around the town a number of people chatted with us and were interested to know the reason for our visit. When we explained that we were there to attend the centenary celebrations of the Warwick Baptist Church, without exception they all seemed to know about the event. We were aware that the church had a large banner on it, in which the centenary was being advertised and assumed that other forms of advertising had also been employed.

People in the main shopping mall in the centre of town (Rose City Mall) seemed to be fully aware of the Baptist churchs celebrations. We soon discovered the reason for this. The mall had a large advertisement in a prominent position in one of the main entries. It was difficult to miss, quite large and very colourful, and it caught the eye as we walked past it.

The Jireh Honour Board Stars in Exhibition

The Honour Board from the Jireh Baptist Church has previously featured in these pages (QB December 2009, page 41). The board has had an interesting history since the closure of the Jireh church in 1978.

While the Queensland Remembers volunteers of the ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee were located at the Voyager Centre in the historical precinct of the Kedron-Wavell RSL Club, one of the volunteers noticed in a cupboard, a large World War I Honour Board belonging to the Jireh Baptist Church.

Apparently, following the fire at the Baptist Church after its closure, the Honour Board had been taken to a dump. It was discovered there in pieces, rescued and given to the Kedron-Wavell RSL. The RSL then gave it to the Woodworkers Group which was also located at the Voyager Centre. The woodworkers offered the Honour Board to the Queensland Remembers Project as they were reluctant to use the wood for other purposes. As a couple of the woodworkers were Returned Servicemen, this perhaps explains their reluctance.

When the Queensland Remembers Project moved to the National Storage Sheds at Aspley, there was a shortage of space and it was suggested that the Baptist Church be contacted so see if they would like to have the Honour Board back. The offer was accepted and it was passed on to the Baptist Church Archives.

In November 2011 the Honour Board was lent back to the ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee to become an important part of the 2011 Remembrance Day Display in the foyer of the Executive Building in George Street. Before it was displayed the board was restored to its original condition and became an impressive part of the Remembrance Day exhibition.