Archive treasures from the start of the Anglican Communion Office (ACO) back in 1968 are to be restored and developed to help build and inform the future of the Communion and its mission.
The archive records of the ACO and the Instruments of Communion, includes details of the 1968 Lambeth Conference from the inception of the Anglican Consultative Council. Other papers relate to provincial correspondence; ecumenical reports, records including collections on mission, women’s ordination, marriage and the family, conflict, refugees and migration, AIDS, and the United Nations.
Information and Knowledge Manager at the ACO, Stephanie Taylor, said, “I am passionate about the potential of information sharing to facilitate connection, collaboration, and learning. In order for this to happen, we need to tell our stories.
“For some, archives may be seen as dusty old repositories of box upon box, file upon file, of old papers; something to be forgotten about, or worse, thrown away, but archives are so much more than a set of dusty old papers.”
She said, “Archives tell the story of who we are, why we are here and what we want to achieve. They are crucial to our sense of identity and a huge strategic resource for mission, outreach and renewal. The Revd David M. Howard, the author and retired Christian missionary, said: 'It is this combination of historical perspective with contemporary needs that will greatly strengthen the ministry of any mission. And the archives of the mission can thus be seen as indispensable to the present and future vision and direction of the mission.'”
Stephanie believes archives are not just historical records but hold collective ‘corporate memory’ and are a living resource; a source of knowledge to be utilised, moving forward, for mission.
She said, “These archives are the Communion’s story and the records and documents within them are treasures that the Revd Dr Jesse Zink, Director of the Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide, argues can help to shape and form the understanding of how history speaks to our present world. I recently had the pleasure and privilege of serving at ACC-16 in Lusaka, Zambia. In his sermon at the opening service, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke of the importance of telling our stories. He said:
“The higher a tree grows, the more likely it is to need deep roots. When the storms come, only the roots make a difference. The older a society or nation becomes, the more it needs to tell its story; so that in each generation we renew the sense of who we are and why we are here now.”
Dr Tim Powell, Senior Advisor for Religious Archives at The National Archives has also stressed the historical and theological value of the archives. He wrote:
"They will be one of the most important sources for understanding the development of Anglicanism – and Christianity generally – worldwide from the later twentieth century. They will be particularly important for understanding theological developments in the Church and ecumenical relationships.”
Stephanie added: “I am reminded of, Lewis Carroll’s 'Through the Looking Glass', in which he writes: 'It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.' In other words we remember to move forwards. We need to tell our story to learn from the past and to shape our future.
"I am delighted to say that the Standing Committee resolved to adopt objectives for the management of the Anglican Communion archives. In committing to developing an archive at the ACO, in stewardship on behalf of the Communion, the ACC Standing Committee has made an enormous gift – the treasure hidden in clay jars will one day be hidden no more, it can be used, in the words of Archbishop Welby, in our mission of setting lights shining in every community."