Knowing your parish story can be extremely valuable for a congregation, says
"You can look where you've been and be inspired to move forward," she said from her office at the Vancouver School of Theology.
Wallace is the chief record keeper for the diocese with all sorts of materials going back to the founding of the Diocese of New Westminster in 1879 and beyond. She also keeps the archives for the Ecclesiastical Province of British Columbia and several of its dioceses.
During the next decade two dozen parishes are coming up to their 100th or 150th anniversaries, she said, and it's a good time for the parish to commission a centennial or sesquicentennial history.
The archives contain a wealth of materials, said Wallace. Wallace and her predecessors have prepared a "Finding Aid" for each parish. It lists everything related to a parish that the archives contains.
The amount of material varies by parish. "But we have at least some material on every parish," said Wallace. "By canon the parish registers have to be handed over. Those are what we call the hatch, match, and dispatch records." (Baptisms, marriages, and burials.)
Privacy regulations limit some of the materials, but very early records are often open. Also available are vestry books that record each service - the type, the number of people present, and sometimes a few notes. "The notes are the most intriguing."
100th Anniversaries (Centennials)
St. George, Vancouver
St. Mary's Kerrisdale
St. Oswald, Surrey
St. Helen, Vancouver
150th Anniversaries (Sesquicentennials)
St. Mary Sapperton
Work has begun on parish histories for five parishes. The Rev. Graham Witcher is working on a new history of St. David's, Delta; Ros Lecomte, for St. Alban's, Burnaby; the Rev. Esther North, for St. Bartholemew/St. Aidens at Gibson's; John Stowe, for St. Clements, North Vancouver; and
Witcher has just about finished most of the research on his book. "Melanie has been extremely helpful," he said. He has also been helped immeasurably by Al Wakarchuk, St. David's parish archivist for the past 30 years.
While it's taken a great deal of time going through years of minute books, newsletters, and correspondence - and frustrating when one finds certain records missing - he's found the job most interesting.
"It's marvelous to hear what was important to people in the past, and how they responded," said the Rev. Esther North, who has almost finished the history of St. Bartholomew's. "Although I did read more old parish council minutes than I ever wanted to."
St. Bartholomew's history also will include a DVD with pictures and video, including segments of television programs in which the parish has appeared.
"For people joining the parish I think having a history is very valuable," said North. "Until you know its history, you don't really know a parish."
|A view from the past-the choir of St. David’s, Delta, 41 years ago|
For those interested in writing or contributing to a parish history, Diocesan Archivist