Church Oral Histories

Identity elements

Reference code


Level of description



Church Oral Histories


  • 1977-1979 (Creation)


1.26 linear feet

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

These oral histories were performed in 38 different community churches in central Minnesota during the late 1970s.  Most of the churches are in or around the St. Cloud area or Brainerd between Interstates 94 and 35.  Ordinarily, the interviews include the church pastor and several elderly members with long family ties to the church.  All the interviews begin with the basic biographical data of the participants including birth dates, the reason their family immigrated to the area and where they came from, length of association with the church, and ethnicity.

The ethnic backgrounds of the congregations and communities are discussed in many of the oral histories.  Attention is given to the ethnic foundations of each church. Americanization of the congregation appears to be significant in many of the histories.  Frequent mention is made of the efforts and influence of church groups, particularly women’s groups, and the concern over an aging congregation without new members joining.  Several interesting anecdotes appear as part of the personal histories, church history, or discussion of the community. The issue of language is particularly noteworthy as almost all the interviews discuss the switch to English from original immigrant languages for Protestant services or from Latin to English for Catholic mass.

Many histories describe the past and present efforts to maintain the church.  Early construction, maintaining church membership (particularly youth), splits and conflicts between churches and denominations over doctrine, and how the changes of the 20th century impacted their community and church.  Notable accomplishments of the churches are also described including community involvement, ministry and counseling, missionary work both locally and internationally, and continual improvement of facilities.  Church association with education is a common topic either as established church or parochial schools, Sunday schools, or as temporary efforts in the early parts of the 20th century.

Transcripts of the interviews are available unless otherwise noted below.  The audio tapes for some of these oral histories are presently unavailable.  Those histories are mentioned in the individual finding aids below.  Most of these histories do have full transcripts available, however.  Some folders include photographs of the church, interiors, grounds, and occasionally interview participants.

A question mark (?) for date of death does not necessarily indicate the participant is deceased.

System of arrangement

Series 1: Oral History Transcripts and Other Material

The records are arranged in alphabetical order by last name of the church pastor interviewed.  When the pastor was not interviewed the first name in the group was used.

Series 2: Recordings

Includes cassette tapes and reel to reel tapes that are organized in alphabetical order by last name. There are a few tapes that contain two separate oral histories and are noted.

Records are located at 35B.2d-f.

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

Unless noted, there are no access restrictions.

Physical access

The oral histories are either on audio cassette or reel to reel tape.  To listen to the cassette, please arrange with University Archives staff ahead of time. Those oral histories on reel to reel tape will not played.  The oral histories are being digitized and will be placed online as soon as possible.

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

Permission to publish must be secured from the copyright holder.

Languages of the material

    Scripts of the material

      Language and script notes

      Finding aids

      Acquisition and appraisal elements

      Custodial history

      Immediate source of acquisition

      Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information


      Related materials elements

      Existence and location of originals

      Existence and location of copies

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      Related descriptions

      Notes element

      General note

      These interviews were conducted under the auspices of the Central Minnesota Historical Center. At the time, St. Cloud State's department of History administered the center. In 2014, the center was integrated into the St. Cloud State University Archives.

      Specialized notes

      Alternative identifier(s)

      Description control element

      Rules or conventions

      Sources used

      Archivist's note

      Doug Breese processed this collection September 2015 through December 2015.

      Access points

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