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Learning and Teaching in North Carolina

November 15, 2019
David Staniunas at Calvary Presbyterian Church, Wilson, NC

It was my great privilege to share some time with friends and neighbors in North Carolina in October, a four-day jaunt that bears reflecting on.

On my first day in town, I flew into Charlotte to meet the Rev. Jerry Cannon at his church, CN Jenkins Memorial Presbyterian, chiefly to talk about preserving the personal records of his sister, the late Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon. Jerry and his siblings were incredibly gracious, and Jerry led me on a quick tour of the building, and shared some of the congregation's commemorative objects with me.

Rev. Jerry Cannon with shovel used at groundbreaking of the present CN Jenkins Memorial Presbyterian Church

Charlotte -- capital of finance, lithium, and NASCAR -- seems at the peak of a decade-long boom in skyscraper and highway construction. The thrum of traffic on I-85 near where I stayed reminded me of my home in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, hard by I-95. An early Waffle House breakfast on Day 2 and I was off for a teaching opportunity at Myers Park Presbyterian Church, in a leafy section of town.

My hosts were the Administrative Professionals Association of the PC(USA) and my audience 35 church administrators who serve congregations and mid councils. We covered a lot of ground, including how The Digital Is Not Magic, And The Cloud Is A Place. It's always a pleasure for me to be with the APA, whose support for PHS in recent years we're grateful for. Admins are very often the people physically in charge of Presbyterian records, so archivists are wise to walk humbly alongside them.

Myers Park is quite a community on its own -- it has long-running partnerships with churches in Cuba, Hungary, and the Democratic Republic of Congo -- and it was treat to be shown around the church by Amy Hock and Josh Richard. I even came home with an LP for the PHS audio collections, "Let the People Praise Thee" by the Myers Park Presbyterian Church Choir.

Myers Park's Cuba partnership display

On Day 3 I drove across the state to Calvary Presbyterian Church in Wilson, for a pre-presbytery training and lunch sponsored by the Presbytery of New Hope. I spoke to a group of about 15 people from Raleigh, Durham, and adjacent areas, ranging from Duke professors to Davie Street congregants. The ties that bind Presbyterians are easily laid bare -- all I had to do was say "J. Oscar McCloud" and a member of the audience said, "He told me to go into ministry."

Presbytery of New Hope reading Belhar

Day 4 was another drive from Raleigh to Smithfield, for an appearance before the Presbytery of New Hope plenary, and an impromptu breakout session on archives, where twenty adults were all suddenly packed together in a preschool classroom. Presbytery read the Belhar Confession prior to doing business, and I tried to rhyme with it, asserting that there can't be reconciliation without establishing truth, and that archives are where that groundwork is laid.

Immense thanks to the Cannon family, the APA, the 75 or so attendees for my lectures, the Presbytery of New Hope and our old friend Andy James, Associate for Small Church Ministries and Technology, who organized my presbytery appearances. We look forward to spending more time with you in 2020.

--David Staniunas is Records Archivist at the Presbyterian Historical Society. Visit our Records Management page to learn about services PHS provides to congregations and mid councils. Contact David directly here

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