Monday, April 08, 2002

Hebron Crossroads
By Jeff Gill

If you didn’t get around to half a dozen churches on Easter Sunday to hear different choirs sing their anthems (I know I didn’t), St. John’s Lutheran Church on Linnville Road has a deal for you.

This Sunday, April 14, at 3 pm, a number of area church choirs will each perform a few selections that they had prepared for the Easter season. In the way of such things, many weeks of rehearsal culminate in one, maybe two performances at most, and then the calendar moves on. This Choir Fest is intended to give choirs a chance to share their hard work and skill one more time in front of a wider audience.

All are welcome to attend and simply enjoy the music; choirs from the Jacksontown, Hebron, and Buckeye Lake area have been invited to participate and refreshments will follow.

Next weekend, musical skills will be on display in River City, Iowa, which will occupy the Lakewood High School stage April 19, 20, and 21. There’s trouble coming to River City, and that’s trouble that starts with "T" which rhymes with "P" and that stands for Plenty of Talent presenting "The Music Man." Meredith Willson’s musical is much beloved from many stage performances including a movie version and a recent Broadway revival, but there’s nothing to match a live performance filled with familiar faces(isn’t that right Dean, Julie, Jana?).

At 7:00 pm Friday and Saturday, and 3:00 pm Sunday, a quality performance is available for just $6 (other discounts available). When you can pay more than that for a bad movie, even at the video store, and five times that for a live concert at Polaris, not to mention what seeing such a show on Broadway would cost, you just can’t afford to miss this.

Plus, parking at Lakewood High is much easier than around 42nd and Broadway in New York . . .

You may not be the sort to read legal notices in the paper, and if so I commend you, but did you see the bid notice for inspecting and cleaning the sewer system for Hebron? There are three miles of sewer line in our town! Now that could be trouble in River City. It makes sense when you think about it, but how often would you think about it? What is even more amazing is that they can do most of the work with little cameras and remote viewing, kind of like a municipal colonoscopy, and we all know how much fun those can be.

And in terms of our civic infrastructure, we’re less than a month away from the Lakewood Schools levy on the ballot May 7. The current plan is to stretch the request for funds from property taxes over five years instead of three, and among other things that will allow the return of all-day kindergarten and busing for the high school next year, along with rolling back pay-to-participate.
Our area needs good schools in the same way Hebron needs a safe reliable water and sewer system with room for expansion: we make use of and benefit from them everyday even when we’re not aware of them. Our police and fire, streets and safety functions are not necessarily parts of our life that we come into contact with every day, but we count on them doing their jobs and doing them well all the time. With or without kids in school, the Lakewood School District is serving you all the time.

If you’re still not sure how, come see "The Music Man" and have your heart lifted by some of your community’s youth, and leave humming "76 Trombones!" Keeping them out of the pool halls is just a bit of what our school system is so successfully doing.

Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church and grew up not far from Gary, Indiana; if you’d like to sing something in his ear about local happenings, tell him at one of "The Music Man" performances or call 928-4066, or e-mail
Churches can take steps to ensure child safety
Guest column -- Newark Advocate, 5 April 2002

Child safety and child abuse by responsible adults is a topic suddenly splashed across the news. The issue is not new, but our willingness as a society to discuss it openly is a recent development. Whether in child care settings, church activities, or youth programming, parents and guardians recognize the need to ensure their child’s safety, and that may be one good that can come out of the tragedies that have gotten so much attention in recent weeks.

How can we guarantee that children are safe from abuse or molestation? Answers are not hard to find once we admit that the problem exists and that we must take active steps to stop it. Denial has been a silent ally of child predators. Openness on the issue disarms them. Openness also helps in circumstances of false accusations, which do sometimes occur.

Since the early 1980’s, the Boy Scouts of America has a "two deep leadership" policy. In brief, at no time is a single adult alone or solely responsible with children. Initially, some scouters resisted this policy, arguing that one-on-one interactions were important to mentoring and directing youth development.

But adults quickly realized that much more was gained than lost in using "two deep leadership" as an absolute requirement. Counseling was often enhanced by two adults responding to a youth’s questions. "Two deep" applied equally to everyone, so no adult leader need be offended by the policy. When an outing was planned, backup was now a requirement – "we’re just not going without another adult with us." And there was no room for a "my word versus the child’s word" situation if an accusation was made.

The other key element in"Youth Protection" is requiring two references. Background checks, which can cost up to $50 a person, are relatively ineffective. Even most well-founded accusations never have charges filed, let alone a conviction, as families hesitate to put their child (or themselves) through the legal system. But the average "problem adult" is often so un-self-aware that they don’t realize what their references will reveal about their last situation working with youth. Background checks rarely catch even long-term molesters, while references often do . . . if you call them, which of course is the last necessary step.

As a pastor as well as a scouter, I am chagrined at how rarely churches take such basic steps. These are two techniques that can be done by any organization, and have the potential to do immense good. On the other hand, neglecting these simple measures can result in incalculable harm.

There is no obvious sign for those who would harm our children. All of us who have worked extensively with youth programs have our own stories: both of the ones we caught and acted against, and the ones where we had no idea until it was too late. It is the latter that haunt us, and keep us vigilant. More eyes, more awareness, more willingness to confront inappropriate behavior, and a refusal to live in denial over the problem can get our entire communities to a place where predators can find no space to operate, and where kids can find a truly safe place to play and grow.

Rev. Jeff Gill
Pastor, Hebron Christian Church,
Church camp director, and
Dist. Commissioner, Licking District BSA