Thursday, April 25, 2002

Notes From My Knapsack -- for May print issue

An editorial page from a Columbus Dispatch sat near the computer for the last two weeks; I had kept it to read more closely a lead editorial on "interstate dumping," the disposal of other states' trash into Ohio landfills. We received 1.77 million tons of trash in 2000, 26% from New York alone. Low-bid landfills in places like Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio are making money on this dubious transaction, which fills the highways with more long-haul trucks carrying noxious loads to rural areas where farmland is becoming a dump site.

I wasn't sure what I was going to make of this issue originally, other than a general "we are all downstream" kind of reminder of what goes around, comes around. But what brought a pastoral concern into focus was that, when I finally got around to reading this op-ed page, I also read a letter from a long-time resident of the campus neighborhoods near OSU, warning (5 days before!) of riotous behavior brewing around street keggers and block parties.

The writer's point was to the broader readership of the Dispatch, out even into Licking County. She points out that "Many students from suburbs and small towns are not just naive; they are destructive and disrespectful. Their parents somehow taught them that when they arrive in the urban environment around campus, they no longer have to respect other people and their property."

Just like the editorial on out-of-state garbage, the point is that there is no "somewhere else" in this world. Everywhere is someone's home -- even nature is home to wildlife -- and we have certain mutual obligations to each other that must be taught, and learned, and reinforced. We all have a stake in "somewhere else," and we need to live in relationship to others wherever we go.

Obviously a faith perspective helps us see that we are brothers and sisters, children of God, all together part of Creation. That perspective does not magically happen: it must be taught, and shared, and affirmed. A good immediate example for us is that just as much of our congregational leadership was shaped in places like Mansfield, Gallipolis, and Valparaiso, Indiana, we are training tomorrow's leadership not just for Hebron but for places so distant we can't name them yet. Our participation in the larger church affirms that important reality -- that in God's world there is no "somewhere else."

In Grace & Peace, Pastor Jeff

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

The Church Window
Hebron Christian Church
Hebron, Ohio
April 2002 on-line newsletter

Notes From My Knapsack

As a regular blood donor myself (O-, 7 gallons ;-D), I want to avoid sounding like i'm tooting my own horn, but the fellow you can read about at this link:

-- shows far better than I can how blood donors are quiet, necessary heroes in our communities. If you'd like to make your contribution, Hebron Village Hall is hosting a Blood Drive on Wed., May 8th from 1:00 to 7:00 pm. All blood types and all ages are accepted; the usual exclusions are if you've had a recent surgery or have a pacemaker or defibrillator on your heart. Just about anyone else can donate!

This really is an important task that can only be accomplished one pint at a time, and since blood can only be stored (even frozen) for so long, an ongoing supply is so very important. The post-9/11 surge of blood donations has not resulted in new regular donors -- you can give a pint every 60 days -- so the need is now as great as it was on Sept. 10th.

The idea came from Village administrator Mike McFarland, who was looking for new ways to use the public spaces of the Municipal Complex (editor's note: somehow, i find "village hall" more chummy) and let Hebron area citizens know that this is their building. He has other plans in mind, but we had talked months ago about how either Hebron United Methodist or Hebron Christian couldn't sponsor a blood drive on their own, due to building limitations and the need to "guarantee" over 25 donors to make the mobile blood service worth the trip. I'm moving my regular donation appointment to be there May 7th, and i hope to see many of you there!

In Grace & Peace,
Pastor Jeff

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Excuses, excuses . . .

This month's e-letter certainly missed the 15th (to complement the print letter, which comes out the 1st). While Joyce did have a good trip to Austin, TX for some training, and took the laptop with her, it was in fact taxes that bumped this e-missive, but not the filing of 1040's as you might think.

If you'd like to see in part what diverted me, click on:

-- and see what's had me on the phone with the Pension Fund, Reps. Ney & Tiberi, and even with staff in House Minority Leader Armey's office. In short, while Congress is truly being helpful, the odds are that the long-standing (since 1921) tax exemption for the clergy housing allowance is going to be declared unconstitutional. The immediate case, before the Ninth Dist. Federal Court of Appeals, is being mitigated by the bill before Congress which passed the House like lightning and likely will cruise through the Senate ("Rev. Gill, you're on hold for Sen. DeWine's legislative counsel . . ."), but the other "interested parties" now involved will probably throw the Ramstad Bill in front of the Supreme Court, and friends whose views i trust are not optomistic.

The short-term (3 to 5 year) impact will be that average clergyfolk like myself will pay about $3000 more a year in taxes, and that's accordingly more for larger churches, a bit less for smaller . . . but not much less, since many smaller church pastors and bi-vocationals take much of their church compensation as housing allowance.

The slightly longer-term impact will be all of those churches, as they try to make up the difference (the amount plus 30% +/-, since you pay taxes on the "new" increase), and then taking some or all of that difference out of Basic Mission Finance, local mission projects, and community assistance.

It's that impact, as we're looking to churches to pick up more and more slack on the social safety net, that makes this not just a "pastor's paycheck" issue, and all the House staff i've talked to agree. At the very least, if we can't stop this $550,000,000 tax increase (i think that's *way* low, myself, and so do most others i've talked to) on 850,000 pastors, rabbis, and imams (yep, imams use the housing allowance, too), there needs to be some way of cushioning the impact on churches as this change in the tax code takes effect.

So, there you have it; you can keep checking for more info if you want. Not the stewardship issue i'd hoped to be spending time on this Spring, but like the pollen, we take the bitter with the sweet . . . atchooo.

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That's all for now; we'll save the cheerier stuff for the next print newsletter! A quick link if you're enjoying the night skies to the west with the five-planet-alignment coming together:

-- which you can customize for "43025" or wherever your zip code is. This gives you not only sun/moon-rise/set info and links to star charts, but also info on when the Space Shuttle or Int'l Space Station pass overhead. After a day of frantic activity, the task of calming your breathing and steadying your hands to look for Jupiter's moons through a pair of binoculars, or picking out a galactic cluster near Andromeda by careful focus of the lenses, can bring you to a state perilously close to . . . prayer!

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Hebron Crossroads
by Jeff Gill

"People think we're trying to extract blood from them anyhow," says Hebron village administrator Mike McFarland. "So we're giving them a chance to do just that."

Mike isn't talking about taxes, but about the village-sponsored blood drive coming on Wednesday, May 8, from 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm in the lobby and council hall of the municipal complex. This new gathering space in Hebron has been the site of a dedication, some zoning displays, and other civic uses. Mike and the village staff were looking for new ways to let the area citizenry know that this is their building, and one idea that came up was to sponsor a blood drive.

"They still need blood all the time," Mike observed, noting that immediately after 9-11 so many came to donate, but relatively few thought to donate again. As a seven gallon blood donor who gives every 60 days myself, I can confirm that the Red Cross blood centers are in as much need for regularly given pints of blood as they were on Sept. 10. In seminary, I organized two or three blood drives a year, and the exclusions back then meant that every volunteer was precious to the supply, and the increase of piercings and tatooings (not a permanent exclusion, but still a short-term "can't donate" factor) along with other reasons has left the Red Cross in a permanent state of "blood supply emergency."

So thanks to our village staff, an opportunity as close as West Main St. will be available on the afternoon of May 8 to help someone in need. It's fairly painless, and may well be a good deed that only you can do. See you there!

This Sunday is the St. Jude's Children's Hospital Bike-a-thon out at Evans Park on Refugee Road; Clay's Cafe is the sponsor, and Glenna Jones would love to have you come out to cheer the kids on at 1 pm. She'll probably also extract a donation from you, but that's even more painless as blood donation. Call 929-2529 if you haven't pledged with a child to get signed up.

That kind of caring and sharing shown by our youth is just part of why so many area residents want to support them on May 7, when the Lakewood levy is up for a vote. This levy (unlike the last two proposed) is for a five year period, making the property tax burden each year a bit less. "The Music Man" production was a great argument for how great a job our teachers, staff, parents, and especially youth of all ages are doing in creating an educational system we are all proud of.

Whatever your perspective on schools and education, there's no denying the job Lou Staffilino and everyone involved in the Lakewood School District has done in bringing our "educational outcomes" this far, and it sure looks like a good investment to keep backing the route they've been taking. Kudos to board member Rick Black and parent Jim Dobos for putting together the campaign for "Lakewood Yes May 7."

Have you taken a look up at the western sky just after sunset lately? About the time you get this Booster, the planet Mercury is visible just above the horizon right after sunset, and that's the first of five planets you can see ascending past the moon in the west. Venus, Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter at the top are all bunching together over the next few weeks.

Don't worry about collisions: their closeness is a trick of the perspective we have here on Earth, 93 million miles out from that handy, nearby star that we call the Sun which all those planets revolve around. In a good pair of binoculars you can see the bumps of Saturn's rings on either side, and sometimes you can see one of Jupiter's moons. Obviously a telescope shows you all this very clearly, but you don't have to have expensive equipment to enjoy the wonders of the night sky. Clusters of galaxies, nebulae, and even the craters of the Moon are quite visible through binoculars . . . plus you can use them during the day to check out the birds migrating back north (a future column).

Please remember the "Full Pool" Breakfast sponsored by the Greater Buckeye Lake Chamber of Commerce on Friday, May 3. George Pugh has gotten Sam Speck, the head of ODNR for us as guest speaker, and residents of the Buckeye Ocean area will no doubt have questions! Tickets are $10 and are available to anyone, and this is a great opportunity to meet local leaders and decision-makers.

Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church and a proud member of the Greater Buckeye Lake Chamber of Commerce; if you have new commerce to promote or other worthwhile news, call him at 928-4066 or e-mail