Get to Know PHS: Serving Congregations and Mid Councils | Presbyterian Historical Society

You are here

Get to Know PHS: Serving Congregations and Mid Councils

March 20, 2023

Organized in 1852, the Presbyterian Historical Society is the oldest denominational archives in the United States and serves as the national archives for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its predecessor denominations. As record keepers of the denomination, PHS collects records of historic value from mid councils and congregations. 

What are records of historic value created by churches and mid councils?

Churches and mid councils create records every day. Some of these records are transactional, created as part of the organization’s routine business, and can be destroyed when they’re no longer of use. Other records document the deliberations, vision, and work of the church in the world. These are worth perpetual preservation. The Presbyterian Historical Society collects these records of historic value and preserves them in secure on-site and online facilities. 

Minutes and registers are examples of records that should be retained for historic value and deposited at the Presbyterian Historical Society for preservation. 

For a complete list of records that should be preserved indefinitely, visit:

Clerks, records, and the Presbyterian Historical Society

What does a clerk of session or a stated clerk of a presbytery or synod do? Some act as secretaries, as resources on church polity, or as parliamentarians. While the role might look different from one council to another, the recordkeeping responsibilities of clerks have been more or less unchanged since the 1789 Book of Order, which stated: “It shall be the duty of the clerk, besides recording the transactions, to preserve them carefully, and to grant extracts from them whenever properly required.”

Similarly, G-3.0104 of the current Book of Order outlines clerkly duties: “Each council shall elect a clerk who shall record the transactions of the council, keep its rolls of membership and attendance, maintain any required registers, preserve its records, and furnish extracts from them when required by another council of the church.” 

PHS staff members are available to guide clerks in their recordkeeping activities, and to receive the records intended for historic preservation at our secure on-site facilities.  

Digitizing Church Records

The Presbyterian Historical Society provides in-house digitization services for PC(USA) congregations and mid councils. 

Digital Collections Specialist Allison Davis demonstrates how church and mid council records are scanned on our CopiBook planetary scanner.

Why would a congregation or mid council digitize their minutes or other records? High quality digital facsimiles provide unlimited, remote access to records and protect materials from damage and deterioration by eliminating the need to handle fragile originals. Our paid digitization service ensures that a church or mid council will maintain uninterrupted access to its documents while safeguarding the original documents at our facilities at no cost.  

To learn more about our digitization services, visit:

Click here to get to know PHS collections, services, and more. Click here to learn how you can support the work of the Presbyterian Historical Society. And click here to receive our monthly e-newsletter.