By Kay Harms
The Arizona Baptist Historical Society held its final annual meeting April 7, at Laveen Baptist Church in Laveen, as the congregation simultaneously celebrated the church’s 75th anniversary.
David Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, was awarded the society’s Willis J. Ray Distinguished Service Award this year. This award has been given selectively throughout the years to individuals in the state who have contributed significantly to Arizona Baptist life. Verlyne Meck, who has served as the organization’s secretary throughout its history, was awarded the society’s Meritorious Service award.
ABHS president Les Jennings said the meeting was bittersweet because it was the 30-year-old society’s final gathering and the group was disbanding, but also the attendees enjoyed the fellowship as they had done in every previous meeting. He commented that as committed as the society had been to passing down their goals and purpose to future generations, they had not gained enough younger interested participants in recent years to fill the necessary offices and do the required work.
“The society’s goal was to encourage our Arizona churches to write and preserve their history,” said Jennings. “We based our mission on Psalm 102:18, which reads, ‘Write down for the coming generations what the Lord has done so the people not yet born will praise Him.’ Writing it down is what preserves our history.”
The society’s president said about 30 people attended the final meeting, and this was the group’s average attendance in the past as well. Over the years, the society generally convened in conjunction with the celebration of a church or Baptist organization’s significant anniversary and would help that church or organization compile their history for the event.
Jennings emphasized that the ABHS was never an agency of the state convention, but simply a society of individuals who wanted to help document the history of churches and associations in the state for archival in the AZSBC Historical Commission. The Historical Commission will continue to archive church history, but it is up to churches and individuals to submit the photographs, documents and other memorabilia for archival. Jennings hopes individuals, groups and churches will continue to collect and document materials for the commission.
“The concept of the society is not dead if someone wishes to step forth and reinstitute it,” said Jennings. “Those who have led [the historical society’s efforts] in the past would be glad to lend some guidance. It’s still a function that could be beneficial, because writing the history is not something the archivist has time to do. She can archive it, but she doesn’t have time to write it.”
Individuals or churches who would like to continue the work of the historical society or simply contribute documented photographs or other historical mementos to the AZSBC Historical Commission may contact Marge Kuban at 602-246-0303.