Saturday, June 28, 2003

Notes From My Knapsack – July 2003 "The Church Window"

It should come as no surprise that I’m very big on promoting and interpreting the role churches play in communities.
From within, we know that being part of a community of faith is how we maintain and enhance our beliefs and actions growing from those beliefs about God and how God works in the world. We need that family of believers around us on a regular basis to encourage us in the hard times and remind us to appreciate the good times.
But the way churches benefit even those who never enter our worship space or share any of our beliefs is less often understood. Your newsletter editor (thank you, David) recently added a line about how a church the size of ours, according to a sociologist who got curious about the services and activities of Christian congregations, adds about a quarter of a million dollars of economic value annually to the community they live in, if that was billed as most social service agencies do in more formal contracts.
Of course, that’s roughly akin to the old saw about what you’d have to pay a mother if you subcontracted out all she does – shopping, cooking, basic medical care, counseling, etc. – but like most old saws, there’s a true line that it cuts. Someone would have to do those things, and if you had to pay for each individual action, you’d see the value better of motherhood.
So churches can make the same claim, and I’m glad we’re in a municipality that knows and appreciates that. It’s been on my mind again recently because of the Ohio Bicentennial Wagon Train, which is getting two days’ worth of dinner and breakfast for about 150 as it passes through eastern and central Licking County because of three United Methodist churches and Hebron Christian. God bless Barbara at Herb-and-Ewe, too; and if the Christian community hadn’t rallied around the ancient spiritual discipline of hospitality ("every guest shall be Christ to you"), perhaps it wouldn’t have hurt our villages at all to quietly let the wagons pass by unacknowledged, but what a gift to the community this work has become!
And the value is far beyond that of 600 meals served to strangers, or a little festival unexpectedly appearing on the local calendar. Once again, congregations have blessed their communities with the joy they have to share, and everyone gets a little more unified, a bit more hopeful, and a whole lot more aware of each other’s gifts whether they join in our worship through our service.
Thanks to Kim Halter, Connie Wildermuth, Jody Shoop, the Cottermans, and all the other workers and preparers who gave this gift of Christ’s presence to and through us this bicentennial year of 2003.

In Grace and Peace,
Pastor Jeff

Monday, June 23, 2003

Community Booster
Ohio’s "Path To Statehood" Wagon Train

Much of today’s world frantically beeps, maniacally buzzes, flashes insistently, or just glows an unearthly green.
Part of the trip back to 1803 is to step in pace with plodding mules, to hear their grunts against a harness that jingles and creaks with a leathery groan, to start to nod your head along with the clop, clop, clop of shod hooves, until you fall asleep that night in a firelit bedroll on the ground.
If all the talk of Ohio’s bicentennial has left you imagining what that pace and rhythm would be like, then June 30 through July 3 will give Licking County residents just that opportunity.
While the deadline is past for signing up to actually ride along with the 14 wagons, and the crew of re-enactors and first few registered participants left Ohio’s eastern border last week, you are invited to visit with the "Path To Statehood" trek at a number of overnight stops and daily breaks along the old National Road, US 40 through southern Licking County.
"We will smell, taste, feel, and see history in these wagons," says Skip Bollinger, the wagon train coordinator for the city of Worthington, sponsor of this statewide event as their contribution celebrating a municipal bicentennial as well. "A nationally recognized mule driver will guide our transportation, we’ve got a PhD in microbiology checking out our food preparation, and most of the wagon drivers are active re-enactors who do this all the time."
The replica Conestoga wagons, like the mules that pull them, are not original to 1803. But the process of loading the wagons, tending the mules, getting up the steep (and admittedly paved) roads, and some of the overnight campouts will give a sense of long-ago everyday life to participants and observers alike.
June 30 the long line will cross into Licking County, and immediately get a warm welcome from Gratiot, where the Gratiot United Methodist Church (and a number of sister congregations in the area) has activities and events planned all afternoon, from 1:00 pm, for the general public. They’ve also taken on the task of feeding the nearly 150 crew and guests, as have volunteers and contributors at each stop in the county. Evenings the encampment will be open to the public until 8:30 pm at every stop.
After breakfast, the mules will struggle up hill and clump down grade until they reach the Eagle’s Nest Historical Marker for a pause; lunch is for the wagon crews only at Herb-N-Ewe’s. Tuesday, July 1 will wrap up with a celebration break at the Licking Township Hall in Jacksontown, and then one last "down grade" to Lakewood High School, where the wagons will camp on the north side and the public is invited to park on the south side of the building and walk around to join a full evening of activities from 6 to 8:30 pm.
Hebron Christian Church and the United Methodist Church of Hebron are feeding the wagon crews dinner, and Jacksontown United Methodist Church is providing breakfast the next morning, July 2. Action Pest Control, Devine Farms, and the Hebron Historical Society are helping sponsor and staff the events, and the Greater Buckeye Lake Historical Society is offering square dancing where the audience will be invited to participate. The local Boy Scout Order of the Arrow Dance Team is doing a display of Native American crafts and dancing at the other end of the display area.
Wednesday, July 2 the procession will wheel into Hebron about 9:30 am, with a proclamation and celebration break at the restored Hebron Mill, sponsored by the restorers, Brezina Design & Construction, who will offer tours of the historic building after the wagon train rolls on to the west, heading for their lunch break at Jutte’s Pigeon Roost Farm, where activities and food for the general public are offered, along with feeding the wagoneers on their way. The Pigeon Roost Farms activities will preceed and and follow the wagon train, from 10:30 am to 3:00 pm, even as the Conestogas rumble on to a break in Kirkersville and to their final stop for the night at Watkins Memorial High School.
Reynoldsburg will host the growing wagon loads of guests and crew at an invitation only lunch on the Department of Agriculture grounds, and then the procession will, one at a time, leave Licking County for a winding route through Franklin County on their way to Worthington and a July 5 celebration there.
Marcia Phelps, county commissioner, and county staffers Pam Jones and Kim Workman have done all the county line to county line co-ordination of this statewide event, often with little clear picture of what Worthington and the state Bicentennial Commission had in mind, but Phelps says "we just kept going, and we couldn’t have done any of it without the local organizing committees, who have just been fabulous."
A special thank you will go to all the individuals and groups who have substantially aided in carrying out this series of programs, "and that’s hundreds of people" Phelps adds.
By the time the Bicentennial Wagon Train has finished their trek, largely along the National Road, they’ll have passed through 10 Ohio counties from Martin’s Ferry in Belmont County to New Paris in Preble County, but few counties will have given as warm a welcome to the wagon train as Licking, even if only measured in food! "The scale and amount of stuff going on here overshadows almost every other location we’ll see" says Bollinger. "We’re as self-sufficient as we need to be, but this area is going to take most of the load off of us."
Lake Erie has its "Tall Ships" and the Ohio River their "Tall Stacks" to celebrate the 1803 founding of this state, but Licking County will have some "tall tales" to tell when the "Path To Statehood" has long since ridden into the sunset.
Hebron Crossroads 6-29-03
By Jeff Gill

Atticus Finch is not dead.
Recently the actor Gregory Peck died, and our sympathy is surely with his family, friends, and fans. Most of us, of whatever age, associate him with one role, a character he never minded being confused with (unlike many other actors kissed by fame in a particular part).
In the screen version of "To Kill a Mockingbird," Peck played a single father, a lawyer in a small town, and a white man who was seen as a friend to the "Negro community" as the majority of the population there would have been called on a good day in 50’s Alabama. All tough jobs, all challenges to portray without over-acting, and a remarkable amalgam on the page in the 1959 novel, let alone depicted in the 1962 movie.
Harper Lee is still with us, but has lived a quiet life in New York and Alabama since her startling first novel (that’s right, first novel), and what little she’s had to say publicly indicates that she’s just not sure how much more she has to say after "Mockingbird," and having said so much in that little book, she’s entitled.
But her great creation, the character of Atticus Finch, is not even as dead as many living historical figures are in our recollections, let alone the fading of long past cinematic portrayals. Just before Peck’s death, and I truly hope he knew of it before his passing, a poll of movie fans listed Atticus Finch as the number one hero in movie history.
All things being equal, I would have shrugged and sighed, briefly, if the news story had said the poll result was Ah-nold, or that ol’ die hard Bruce Willis. Some older cinephiles might pick out "the Duke," or even the likes of Douglas Fairbanks or Tyrone Powers.
There is something downright encouraging when Atticus Finch is recalled when someone asks a question about what a hero is. If you haven’t seen the movie for a while (or since a high school English teacher made you watch it, bemused at the black and white and the age of this thing you were expected to care about, struck by the remarkable title sequence as the words rose from beneath the charcoal rubbing, and then amazed at how you were drawn into this old fossil of a film). . .well, watch it again, OK?

William Harris has a hero, and while his first book will not likely make him a fortune to live on the rest of his life, it tells the common story of uncommon valor shown by his grandfather, William J. Johnson, and many like him in World War II.
Janice and Phil Harris (who just celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary) are proud of both their children, with Tricia graduating last year from Wilmington, but the focus right now is on William, a Lakewood Middle School student.
In Mrs. Warthen’s class, he had the chance to write and illustrate a book that would be printed up. I’ve seen a number of these, and the motivation of knowing your final product will come out between hard covers has spurred some very nice collections of poetry, essays on hobbies and interests, and appreciations of various family members. . .or pets!
But William chose to adapt a journal that his grandfather had assembled to summarize and tell the story of his service in the United States Navy through World War II and Korea. Taken from his letters and diary, plus a few records left from his progress from Signalman to Chief Quartermaster through the ranks and some 20 ships, grandfather William left his daughters and grandchildren and anyone else who might care a narrative of what life was like "back then" and why young men and women made some of the choices they did in places like Bellaire and Shadyside, Ohio.
The idea worked, because grandson William read the journal, and retold the story from his perspective, entitled quite sensibly "My Grandfather, William J. Johnson." And now, many others have picked up the story and read it, gaining young William honors from the printers who prepared the class books, readership well beyond his immediate family, and a write-up last weekend in a Wheeling and Ohio Valley newspaper.
William and Lora Johnson, his high school sweetheart and wartime bride, both died last year, but their story lives one. Thanks, William, both of them!

You can read more about the Ohio Bicentennial Wagon Train July 1 and 2 elsewhere in this paper, and don’t forget the annual Civil War Re-enactment out at Infirmary Mound Park this weekend. History is all around the Hebron Crossroads. . .

Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church and a local historian and archaeologist; if you have news of note or historical announcements to make, share them through Please remember that a few weeks notice is necessary to get time-bound articles into the column!