On Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, members of the Stone-Campbell / Restoration Movement gathered in Bethany, WV, to dedicate a modern archival facility and offices for the Disciples of Christ Historical Society (DCHS).
“This has been a long time coming,” said Archie Jenkins, chair of the board of trustees. “The new archive building is the product of much hard work from many people. The DCHS board, made up of Disciples, Church of Christ and Christian Church-Churches of Christ members, is extremely happy and pleased with the new home that houses the history of the Restoration Movement.”
Adjacent to the grounds of Bethany College and the Campbell mansion, the location hails back to the importance our spiritual ancestors placed on education. Relocation to Bethany will include opportunities for student-workers, the use of Historic Bethany and classroom-laboratory partnerships in church history and library science.
“It was such a joy to be among those gathered at Bethany,” said Mary Lou Kegler, second vice moderator of the General Assembly and member of the DCHS board. “The enormous task of planning and the hard work evident made the event successful. This is another huge blessing for the Church and its great cloud of witnesses.”
Views of Old Main from the Watkins Reading Room and the Campbell Study and Mansion from the D. Newell Williams Conference Room, reveal our history is alive and present in the location. Other features include the Eva Wrather Archivist Office, the Lucas Torres Docent Space, the Irwin C. Chapman study carrels and the Peter and Lynne Morgan Gathering Space. The Oscar Haynes exhibit space is shared between the Old Meeting House and Haynes’ home congregation, National City Christian Church. A re-dedication of the Haynes Exhibit will take place at National City in Washington, DC, in November.
The facility was made possible by sale of the Nashville location and a partnership with Bethany College, the owner of Historic Bethany. A shared services agreement allows the society exclusive use of the Renner Visitor center. DCHS added a reading room, receiving/processing room, study carrels, the outdoor gathering space and the archive in addition to renovating the Renner Center.
Relocation was a mission-based decision by the board. “The mission of the Society is to steward the sacred stories, to create space for research, to preserve our artifacts and to teach the historical theology of Campbell, Stone and others who have journeyed in faithfulness before us,” said Pension Fund President Todd Adams, former interim president of the ministry.
Over the years, DCHS has struggled to properly fund maintenance and repairs on the neo-gothic cathedral in Nashville. As a result, the archival resources and staff were reduced to offset increasing operational costs. T.W. Phillips was one of the first trustees of Bethany College, where his great-grandson Asa Johnson remains an active trustee today. The Phillips-Johnson family endorsed the repurposing of their original gift through the sale of the Nashville facility. It took 11 semi truckloads to move the extensive collection overseen by archivist Shelly L. Jacobs.
Interim Executive Director John Imbler said, “The many friends attending the dedication and blessing of the Historical Society’s new facilities were enthusiastic about its settling in Bethany where so much of the Stone-Campbell history is still alive. Letters, phone calls, and emails are still being received offering congratulations and well-wishes as the Society enters its next 75 years of service and witness to the heirs of the 19th century restoration movement. The cooperation has been such a gift to our future and a model for new ways to go forward.”
The weekend included the Kirkpatrick lecture by Rev. Dr. Newell Williams of Brite Divinity School and tours of the facility. Rev. Dr. Doug Foster of Abilene Christian University and world-renowned Stone-Campbell scholar provided the lesson at Bethany Memorial Church on Sunday morning.
Those that were unable to attend the dedication can view the stream of the event on the on demand tab at: https://portal.stretchinternet.com/bethanywvadmin/.