Rare books donated to Historical Commission
Missouri pastor gladly turns over beloved library
SEDALIA – When John Tygart moved from pastorate to pastorate, the first thing he moved was his livestock and then his library.
“If there was any time left,” jokes his wife, Sarah, “he’d come back for me and the kids.”
Regardless of his packing order, Tygart loves his books and the shelves covering the walls of three rooms in his house are proof. And rather than see them gather dust, recently the former pastor of Emmett Avenue Baptist Church here was willing to give 147 books – many of them priceless historical volumes – to the Missouri Baptist Historical Commission’s new Pastoral Resource Library.
The books and pamphlets range from general biblical commentaries and histories of Missouri and Southern Baptists to a pre-Civil War church manual and a complete 20-volume collection of the sermons of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
Born in Missouri and educated at California Baptist University and Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Tygart has been gathering and collecting books at every chance, beginning in 1953 when he surrendered to the ministry.
“I was ordained in 1966 in Mojave, Calif.,” he said, “and since then I’ve been collecting them. I’ve bought them at bookstores, auctions for a dollar a box and they’ve been given to me by other pastors. I’m not sure where I picked up ‘Missouri Baptist Centennial.’”
That’s why Tygart sought out Joanna Perkins, the archivist of the Historical Commission. After learning that the Missouri Baptist Convention had purchased a copy of the 1906 book with hopes of republishing it online, he remembered a copy sitting on his bookshelves and wanted to make a donation.
Perkins said the collection is a treasure trove of Baptist history and religious study. It’s a historian’s and scholar’s delight.
“It really speaks of Mr. Tygart’s love of learning that he doesn’t want to let these books he’s learned so much from get thrown away,” she said. “He has gone everywhere from garage sales to church libraries to who knows where to try to learn something he didn’t know before. He clearly is a gentleman who loves to learn and values learning enough that he doesn’t want this knowledge to be lost.”
Among the rarer books is A History of Baptists in Missouri, published in 1882.
“It’s in really good shape,” she said. “To get a copy of this in this good condition is exciting.”
Overall the books are in excellent condition but one of the more fragile and hard-to-find pieces is “The Baptist Church Manual” containing a declaration of faith, rules of order and examples of church letters predating the U.S. Copyright Office which was not organized until 1870. There is also a series of biblical commentaries dating back to the 1890s and a New Directory of Baptist Churches dated 1894. The histories go down to even the associational level, with A History of Shoal Creek Association printed in 1908.
The books aren’t all from a century ago, however. The series of Spurgeon’s sermons, which Tygart won by selling magazine subscriptions when he was in the military, date from the 1950s. Effective Evangelistic Messages is copyrighted 1967 and Choice Sermons from Missouri Pulpits was printed in 1981.
Tygart’s books are the first major gift to help establish the Pastoral Resource Library, Perkins said.
“It’s a fledgling effort to collect material that would be useful to biblical researchers, scholars, students or people who are just interested in the Bible or history, to have access to one-of-a-kind materials,” she said. “If we have duplicate materials, they can request a copy for their own personal library.”
Pauline Sherman, a pastor’s widow in Jefferson City, has also donated some books and materials to the library, including the minutes of Cane Creek Association dating back more than 60 years and the minutes of the Missouri Baptist General Association from 1888.
The concept of a historical library with the ability to give books away hit full steam last summer when Larry Greenfield, newly hired director of missions for Mineral Area Association, lost his home – and his personal pastoral library – in a fire.
“It was such a shame that he no longer had his library,” Perkins said. “If there are other pastors like Tygart who are retired and ready to give up some of their library or maybe family of pastors who have passed away, we can be a place where those books can be collected, checked out, loaned and given to pastors just starting out or to pastors who have lost their library.”
Perkins also hopes the library can help preserve the value of all books, regardless of subject or publication date.
“In the age of the Internet, it’s so easy to lose touch with a book,” she said. “We can forget how important it is to hold a book in our hands, to turn a page, to highlight a passage, to bookmark a passage that God laid on your heart. You lose something when it’s just a print-out of something you read on the Internet. It doesn’t have the same impact. We don’t want young pastors to have so few bound resources that they lose the concepts of books and how special it is.”
You don’t have to remind Tygart. The books he donated are just a tiny fraction of his library and there are even more he has set aside to personally give to young pastors he meets.
Perkins said books that would be most useful to the lending library would be histories of Missouri Baptists, commentaries, Bible studies, sermon collections and anything that someone “seriously studying” might find useful. The age of the books does not matter.
“To donate to pastors, that could be anything,” she said. “We’re looking for personal devotional books, and maybe less scholarly, more popular press-type of books.”