Monday, February 25, 2002

Notes From My Knapsack

The last year has been an interesting one in the life of our larger church
connection, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). I use
"interesting" quite deliberately, because there is much going on that can
be seen as both good and bad, and perspectives vary. You're about to get

A few months ago, Christian Board of Publication announced that "The
Disciple", a general news and information magazine aimed at our
denomination, would close in March. Readership had dropped from almost
80,000 subscriptions to less than 20,000 (out of a denom. with about
800,000 members). 86% of clergy subscribed, while less than 2% of lay
members did. It was about to go back to losing large sums of money -- and
CBP is not a "subsidiary" of the Disciples anymore than Hebron Christian
is, as folks learned everytime they asked why the General Minister &
President couldn't "do something" about a cover they didn't like, or an
article they disagreed with. CBP is an independent expression of our
common life as Disciples, and still will be; just without that particular

Then Rev. Lois Artis (some of us heard her preach at Reg. Assembly two
years ago) gave the Basic Mission Finance report for 2001: the good news
is that designated giving was up in Reconciliation, Week of Compassion, and
specified outreach causes. The bad news was that overall BMF giving
declined 4%. In the past, investments have been able to cover such losses
and allow program & budget growth, but as we all know, that didn't happen
this year and can't be counted on next year. A number of commenators
pointed to a continuing trend to donors wanting to have more sense of what
their gifts are specifically going to do, and being less willing to give to
a general fund -- we've seen some of that right here, too.

And finally, just a few weeks ago, the National Benevolent Association, our
Disciples-related care facility organization, announced that they would
"close" the Cleveland Christian Home, a 101-year-old part of our mission
and ministry here in Ohio. NBA reported that, with reimbursements falling
drastically behind costs, and investments also cutting a hole in planned
earnings, they could no longer cover the operating shortfalls that NBA
claims has plagued them for over 5 years. I put "close" in quotes because
the residents (36 there in the building, others in nearby group homes) will
receive services until appropriate placements are found for all, and
another group or even the staff themselves may buy out the Home and try to
run it themselves. Some want to come and make a presentation at area
churches, including of course Hebron Christian.

So. . .that's a bunch of information, and it only skims the surface.
Anytime any of you would like to know more, or be pointed in the direction
of more information so you can consider it yourself, please let me know and
I'm happy to help. If there are ways more of this kind of info could be
shared with the congregation, let me know your thoughts on that as well.
Some say the problems are rooted in pastors' not sharing all of this info
regularly with their congregations . . . but obviously printing a magazine
with all those details wasn't too popular, either.

Meanwhile, if you've read on this far, here's why I actually think this all
could be seen as good news, of a sort. We have been talking a good game,
among the clergy & church leadership, about the need to change and adapt
our ministries to effectively preach the Gospel to our present time and
place. I'm afraid what we have actally done is adapt the Gospel to
effectively maintain the ministries we're used to and comfortable with, and
the Gospel doesn't -- can't -- shouldn't change, and the times always do.
Over the last 100+ years we've seen magazines come and go (something will
replace "The Disciple", never fear), outreach ministries have gone from
orphanages to foster care to . . . ?, and the very nature of overseas
missionary work has changed dramatically, because they've heard the Gospel
and now they're coming back to preach it anew to us!

I believe that 10 to 15 years from now half of all Disciples congregations
will be led by non-ordained leadership. Our decision isn't whether or not
that's going to happen; our decision is whether or not we can see that as
something to nurture and celebrate. I believe that there will be 18 or so
regions then, not 35 -- whoops, 34, because they're already consolidating,
and that's long overdue. I believe that there will be nothing resembling
our General Office as it is now, and why wouldn't that be a good thing?
Magazine titles, organizational structures, and particular forms of mission
aren't the Gospel, but simply expressions of it; and I don't know many
people who keep the same expression on their face for very long, do you?

I believe the Gospel is still the Light of the World, and that we Disciples
will have a special role to play in sharing it: because youth mid-winter
and leadership events in our region are filled and popular, because lay
training events are filled to overflowing, because congregations are
working together in Christ in places like Hebron & Licking County, because
hands-on work projects "gettin' dirty for Jesus" have never been more
popular in the life of our churches in Ohio and around the Disciples'
fellowship. Thanks for reading this far, and visit, call, or e-mail me if
you want to hear more about how things are changing in our denomination,
and I believe largely for the better.

In Grace & Peace,
Pastor Jeff

Hebron Crossroads
by Jeff Gill

One of the most beautiful sights I know is driving into Hebron on US 40 around dusk from the west. As you crest the hill at Sunset Inn and curve a bit north coming down into the village, the view spread out before you is wonderful.

But what is the name of the hill we see to the west of town? I asked Mary Lawrence (someone said she'd know!), and she thought it had been called "Smith Hill", but she wasn't sure. Sunset Hill sure sounds nice, and I may keep calling it that unless some Smiths want to straighten me out.

This did get me to thinking about some of our other landforms around Hebron, many of which are quite striking from that drive into town from . . . Sunset Hill. Straight ahead, over the old Mill that the ribbon of road points to, is what I call "Dawes Heights." As you get closer, it resolves into a number of hills, like Hawthorne Hill and Oak Ridge, but the high point you see from the west is east of 79, with an Adena mound on it that is just inside the Arboretum boundaries.

Looking back from the bowl the village sets in toward the west, Sunset Hill drops a bit north of 40, and then starts a rise that continues on to Beaver Run; I call it Blatter Ridge, but Martha Blatter says it used to be called "Road Hill." Martha is a modest woman, but I like my name better.

Of course north of the village limits across Beaver Run to the north is Seminary Hill, for the PIME facility that sits on its crest. Ironically, Canyon Road runs up the high ground between the seminary and Blacks Hill, until it reaches one of the area's other dramatic evening views, the one down into the valley filled with the lights of Newark and Heath. Then Canyon does drop down towards Union Station, into the "canyon" of Auter Creek, which is what I'm going to keep calling Ramp Creek until it catches on!

Do you know of other lost or alternate names for local landmarks?

Our legacy from the past is held in names and memories and other various kinds of landmarks. The "Leave A Legacy" program here in Licking County is an interesting attempt to help people shape their legacy after their death with careful consideration of their wills.

While the Licking County Foundation has been very helpful in getting this started, this isn't about getting people to leave their money to them! What the "LAL" committee is trying to do is get information out to local non-profits, service groups, and yes, churches, helping them help their members to leave a legacy.

The program is based on three simple facts. Nationally, 70% of people give money regularly to some group or another; that's 76% in Licking Co., no surprise there. But only about 3% of wills leave anything to groups or charities. When "LAL" looked at the last five years' worth of wills in our probate court, even counting a simple $50 gift to their church, only 6% in Licking County had done so. And finally, 82% of the country's richest individuals left nothing to charity!

So the point is to simply offer the information. People may well want to leave something, but have never been asked or approached with a way to do so. A training event for representatives of organizations that want to learn more is on March 5 at the old Pennsy Depot, the Foundations Building in Newark, from 7 to 9 pm. The cost is just $5, and I went to their first one and it was well worth it. Call 345-7351 for info or registration.

Two legacies of changing times in Hebron are the former municipal building and the old library, both right downtown. Offers have already been made to rent, buy, or use these structures, and village council has asked a few of us to meet to review options and make a recommendation back to them on what to do with them. Theirs is the final decision, but these local citizens will be meeting soon after they've been cleaned to consider what is in the best interests of Hebron.

Please feel free to forward to me or through Mike McFarland, village administrator (Mike's handed me a couple already) what your thoughts are, but consider these points. First, the village can't "give" the buildings to anyone, no matter what the cause or purpose of the organization (the solicitor sez that's the law, folks). Second, anything like a youth center which would require staff is a tough proposition, considering we voted down the last parks levy. Third, being a landlord has some significant downsides. Ask any landlord! Renting the buildings out is already a last option.

They are good, solid buildings, and they have good locations, but are neither "accessible" under the law, which would further limit some public uses for either. With all that in mind, be creative and pass your ideas along, and this committee will prioritize them and return our list to council.

Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church and a member of a variety of committees (for his sins). If you have a
story idea or other feedback for him, call 928-4066 or e-mail