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NEW CD-ROM PRESERVES DATA, ESSAYS FROM EVERY YEARBOOK 1916-2000
NCC’s Research Capacity Enhanced by Lilly Endowment Inc., Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

            February 9, 2000, NEW YORK CITY – Now all 68 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches editions from 1916 through 2000 can fit in your pocket.   This new CD-ROM, which preserves all statistical and essay pages, is the latest enhancement under a three-year, $635,000 redevelopment grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

            “Lilly was concerned that the Yearbook’s one-of-a-kind body of information collected since 1916 be preserved and made available to social scientists, church leaders and historians, journalists, libraries, seminarians and other scholars and the general public,” said the Rev. Dr. Eileen W. Lindner, Editor.

For The Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches Historical Archive CD 1916-2000, the 68 editions' statistical and essay pages were scanned into gif images readable with a Web browser.  The collection is indexed year by year, and hyperlinked chapter and section headings make it easy to “leaf” through the pages. 

“The new CD-ROM is an enduring contribution to the study of American Christianity,” Dr. Lindner said.  “Until now, the Yearbook’s corpus simply was unavailable to all but the very few researchers who could find their way to our offices and spend time poring through increasingly fragile volumes.”

The CD-ROM puts a vast body of church membership, financial and other data at the user’s fingertips.  The essays make their own fascinating reading, as they reflect the particular concerns of the times in which they were written.  For example, a 1920s essay describes the churches’ campaign for Prohibition; more recent essays examine the emergence and character of U.S. Hispanic, African American and Asian Christianity.

“I can’t help but think how pleased the late Constant H. Jacquet, Jr., the Yearbook’s editor for 23 years, would have been to witness the preservation and dissemination of the body of work to which he gave so much of his life,” Dr. Lindner commented.  Mr. Jacquet died of cancer in 1990, a few weeks before he was scheduled to retire.

            The Yearbook – along with the CD-ROM and a growing companion Web site, www.ElectronicChurch.org – are prepared by the National Council of Churches.   Dr. Lindner is the NCC’s Deputy General Secretary for Research and Planning.

The Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches Historic Archive CD is available for $29.50 postage paid. Write Yearbook Orders, National Council of Churches, 475 Riverside Drive Room 880, New York, NY 10115.  Order online at www.ElectronicChurch.org; e-mail yearbook@ncccusa.org.   Phone (888-870-3325), fax 212-870-2817.

            The most sought-after numerical Yearbook data, including membership and financial  figures, also are available in multiple digital/calculable formats for use in database, accounting or statistical software packages for analysis, trends-spotting and quick reference.  For more information, contact the Yearbook staff.

In addition to the CD-ROM, the Yearbook redevelopment grant also has enabled staff to update church membership and financial statistics as late as Dec. 1 – three months later than was possible previously.  “It used to be we couldn’t make changes past Sept. 1,” Dr. Lindner said, “but many denominations update their statistics during the fall.  Now the Yearbook can keep up with the latest numbers.”

Similarly, Dr. Lindner was able to update the 2001 Yearbook’s “Considering Charitable Choice” theme essay on Dec. 15.  As a result, the essay – planned last May and “in the can” on Oct. 15 – was able to describe all research on Charitable Choice published in English through year-end 2000.

The efficiency and capacity of the database has been enhanced to such a degree that it has enabled a reduction of staff time in production processes which have been reassigned to the Yearbook’s growing editorial and research activities – this year, on Charitable Choice; last year, on U.S. religious pluralism.

            Other enhancements were achieved last year and are carried forward in the 416-page, 2001 Yearbook, among them:

        a directory of eight “non-Christian” faith traditions in America (Baha’ism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Native American Traditional Spirituality, Sikhism), now integrated into the “Sources of Religion-Related Research” chapter;

        graphic interpretation of demographic patterns of seminary enrollment;

        an index of U.S. regional and local ecumenical and interreligious bodies’ work in 25 areas;

        a revamp of the “Emerging Electronic Church” chapter and development of the Web site, www.ElectronicChurch.org, which includes extensive links to additional sites;

        use of software packages that automate updating – for example, of telephone area codes, and

        establishment of an electronic database including the Yearbook’s thousands of contacts.

            The Lilly Endowment Inc.’s grant, along with smaller grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, have greatly strengthened the NCC’s research capacity, Dr. Lindner noted.  Grants from the latter enabled the NCC to gather 30,000 names for the foundation’s Faith in Action program, and to develop a contacts list of hard-to-reach sites – including “faith traditions – Native American spirituality, for example – whose expressions are so local they don’t get into a national database,” she said.

“The Yearbook, through its revitalized infrastructure and its improved capability for analysis, has been strengthened enormously as a highly valued source of sound data, resources and scholarship.”

-end-

Editor’s Note: (Why only 68 editions of the Yearbook, a statistical annual, over 84 years?  Publication of the Yearbook was suspended during the Depression and war years at times when new data couldn’t be gathered, Dr. Lindner said.)

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