Archives & Records of the Methodist Church in Britain

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What are Records and Archives & who is responsible for them?

All local churches, circuits and districts create records as part of day-to day administration. These records are essential to the efficient running of the church ensuring that we have evidence of what decisions are made, how these decisions were taken and by whom. Good record keeping ensures transparency, accountability, and compliance with our legal responsibilities such as GDPR.

Records created include minutes of meetings, financial records and accounts, registers, and reports. If these records are lost or incomplete it may impact on the efficient running of the church, or in some instances expose the church to risk or reputational damage. Some records will contain confidential or sensitive personal information and it is very important that such records are managed securely and protected from unauthorised access.

Good organisational records management ensures that records are created to record actions and decisions, and to support effective administration. When these records reach the end of their administrative life and are no longer required for legal or audit purposes, they must either be securely destroyed, or transferred to an archive service for permanent preservation. These archival records tell the story of the church, they support our mission and will enable future generations to understand the history and contribution of the Methodist Church. [ME1]

It is the ultimate responsibility of the Superintendent to ensure proper records management. However, office holders such as the treasurer, church council secretary, the senior church steward and/or the church or circuit administrator will be responsible for the day-to-day management of specific records.

For example:

  • Church council minutes are the responsibility of the church council secretary
  • Circuit Minutes are the responsibility of the circuit meeting secretary
  • Pastoral administration is the responsibility of the pastoral co-ordinator

I need some advice. Who can help?

Volunteer Circuit and District Archivists support churches in their area and the circuit/district teams to manage their records, including appraising records for disposal or preservation as archives and preparing archival material for transfer to a local archive service. Once deposited (as a long-term loan) the archives will be catalogued, and then made available to researchers.

In most cases, you can contact your Circuit Archivist via your Circuit Administrator and your District Archivist via your district office. If you do not have a Circuit Archivist in your circuit, contact your District Archivist.

It would be very helpful if you could update us about any vacant volunteer circuit and district posts at : heritage@methodistchurch.org.uk

Where should archives be deposited?

Church and Circuit records are usually deposited with local archive services where they can be consulted alongside a range of other archive collections which relate to the local area. The current arrangement is that records are transferred to archive service in the county where the "head' church of the Circuit is situated. This can sometimes mean that the Methodist records are not in the same repository as the local government records, for example. District records are usually deposited following a decision by Synod: wherever makes most sense.

When circuits merge, a decision will need to be made about where the records of the new circuit will need to be made in agreement with the local archive services. The records of the previous circuits should continue to be deposited with the designated archive service. As ‘Super Districts’ are created similar discussions will need to be made place to determine where their archival records should be deposited.

Connexional records are currently deposited in the John Rylands Research Institute and Library at the University of Manchester. The Methodist Archive and Research Centre is a vast collection relating to all aspects of Methodism. Further information can be found at https://www.library.manchester.ac.uk/rylands/special-collections/subject-areas/

The records of the Methodist Missionary Society are looked after by SOAS. https://www.library.manchester.ac.uk/rylands/special-collections/subject-areas/

If you need help or advice on matters relating to archives please contact the Liaison Officer for Methodist Archives (email: archives@methodistchurch.org.uk ) who will be happy to offer further guidance.

The Connexional Archive

John Rylands Research Institute and Library, Manchester.

John Rylands Reading Room

Methodist Missionary Society Archive

SOAS, London.

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Becoming a Circuit or District Archivist

Alongside being diligent enforcers of GDPR and retention schedules, these committed volunteers are often at the center of church life and have at their fingertips much of the documentation that tells the story of their church and Methodism in their area. Anybody with a passion for recording the history of their church can get involved.

Resources & Guidance Documents

Retention Schedule

Linked above is the official guidance for which documentation should be kept and archived or otherwise disposed of.

Guidelines for Methodist Archivists

Linked above are the guidelines are intended for those appointed to be District Archivists, under Standing Order 473, or Circuit Archivists, an office at the discretion of the Circuit Meeting.

Archivist's Newsletter (latest edition)

Linked above is the latest edition of the Archivist's Newsletter, authored by the Liaison Officer for Methodist Archives and sent to all Circuit and District Archivists.