Archivist Has A Long-ing For Church History
To continue honoring women for Women’s History Month, we feature archivist for the North Texas Conference and the South Central Jurisdiction, Frances Long.
Piecing together records to tell personal stories more than just a job
In the basement of Bridwell Library at SMU lies the archives for Texas United Methodism. Frances Long has been caretaker of the archives at least three decades. Her passion is history, specifically church history.
While in college to become a stenographer in Springfield, Mo., she visited a court room where she met Robert Stroud, The Birdman of Alcatraz. She and a friend sat with Stroud while the guard went on a cigarette break. Sitting with Stroud, Long learned his story. That day, she realized everyone’s story is important and she loved hearing them.
Of storytelling, Long said “our experience is our gift” to others. She believes what we “might not think is important to somebody, might save their life.”
Since 1972, Long has been active at First UMC Richardson. While planning for First Richardson’s 90th birthday in 1976, she was to create a display of church history. However, the archives were missing. She searched the church and found the files, thus beginning her mission as a historian.
With no formal education in church archiving, she took workshops from the General Commission on Archives and History to learn. Her tenacity for history helps when she travels to churches to set up archives. She explores every nook and cranny to find any shred of history. She helps churches throughout the South Central Jurisdiction. When someone needs help, Long will get the answer for them because “it’s the most important thing” to her, said Bridwell archivist Tim Binkley.
Said Kevin Burns, communications associate at First UMC Richardson: “Frances uses her gift as an interviewer to combine historical records of a church with the personal stories of the people of that church.”
People send boxes of documents and pictures, and Long meticulously goes through each item and categorizes it for future use.
When a church must close its doors, Long is there. She knows Texas United Methodist history well. Because the lines of each conference have been fluid over the years, conferences rely on each other. William Hardt, president of the Texas United Methodist Historical Society and archivist for the Texas Conference, knows Long can “always lay her hands on information immediately.”
Long’s calling is maintaining church history and loves sharing it with others. Her passion for the United Methodist Church and its history reflects her faith in Christ and the church itself.
Published: Tuesday, March 26, 2019