Archivist Has A Long-ing For Church History

Frances LongTo 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.

Exhibition infoOf 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.

 

Journal from 1980

 

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


 
6 Comments
Added by Anonymous

Frances is a true gift. We are lucky to have her.
Kent Roberts, acting Chair of the Conference Commission on Archives and History
Added by Doris Payne, Henrietta FUMC

What a blessing for all of us. Thank you seems inadiquate.
Added by Sam Hodges

Thanks for putting the spotlight on Frances. She is most deserving, both for her great contribution as archivist and just for who she is.
Added by Joan LaBarr

There is no one more committed and knowledgeable than Frances.
Added by Joe Gist

Frances is special in so many ways to so many of us in the North Texas Conference. She is family. One of the many reasons I miss the Dallas area Cokesbury store is I miss seeing and talking with Frances as much as I did when the store was in business.
Family.
Added by Dale Patterson

What a wonderful story. Thank you Frances. And in each annual conference are people like Frances working to preserve our history and sharing our stories. Yeah, for them. If we don't know our past then we don't know how we got here!
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