Saturday, May 12, 2012

Elz Curtiss on a Denominational Library

A clip from an Elz Curtiss to the UU History List on the need for an online denominational library.  I’d be curious what themes would emerge from our preachers and how they would mesh with what’s coming out of Boston.  Instead of wondering what the core of UUism is today, we’d have a database telling us exactly what’s being preached.

Your question [on Universalist training on preaching BB] helps me focus on the challenge facing our denomination today. With so much sacralizing of the everyday world,and so much widespread literacy and advanced education, the implied canon of Bible, Shakespeare, national documents and certain classical philosophers has dissolved and pretty much floated away. The Lyceum Circuit also kept our religious language somewhat cross-fertilized, despite its relocation into the secular realm. So when people now feel called to preach -- whether lay or ordained -- our denominational culture lacks a "core curriculum" from which everyone sets out together and to which we are called to return.

This is one reason I have become impassioned about creating a denominational library, using the latest library science to cross-link what we are reading and preaching. Thanks to the internet, we no longer have to worry about storing everything in one place,but can keep things regionally available. What the denomination would have to provide is guidance and insistence that all preachers make arrangements to deposit their writings and inform the central librarians about when and where things are available. There would need to be a fund to support local indexing of the archives, providing whatever scanning or keyword loading the overarching directory would provide.

It's true that if you know what you're looking for, WorldCat will tell you where to find it. But you still have to get up and go there. I am talking about giving every minister,especially in our far-flung locations, to turn on their computer in their study at 9 p.m. on Saturday night and look up relevant passages for a sermon that is finally beginning to cohere, based on keywords and phrases that have meaning for a particular congregation on the dawning Sunday.

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