Thursday, January 06, 2005

Faith/Works Column
The Newark Advocate
Intro column

Faith/Works 1-16-05
By Jeff Gill

Last week, I just started talking without introducing myself. The tsunami response (and the needs continue, which we’ll speak of again, I’m sure) took first priority, but I tend to do that kind of thing in person, too.
My name is Jeff Gill, and I’ve lived in Licking County on and off since 1989 (the off part was a six year sabbatical in West Virginia). As an ordained Disciples of Christ pastor who is now an active lay member of a Methodist church, directs camps at a United Church of Christ conference center and goes on regular retreats at a Roman Catholic convent, I like to think I have some good coverage in the ecumenical department. My knowledge of interfaith matters hasn’t caught up to my curiosity or interest, but I know that there are Tibetan Buddhists, Hindus, and Native American healers who are deeply involved in community leadership around this area, and I want to open up a window and even a doorway for Licking County residents to those traditions through this column.
Then there’s you. Yep, you. Well, maybe not you, but someone right behind or next door or around the block from you. There’s a big bunch of folks even in red-state, Bible Belt,
"values voter" America that Licking County represents so well, who do not attend a place of worship even twice a year. Some call them "the unchurched," others "unaffiliated," and few would say "the lost." I’m just gonna call you "You."
You have hopes and fears, commitments and areas of indifference, and you have beliefs you may or may not be comfortable talking about with your friends. You may even be in that 22% who told exit polls that "moral values" were a factor in your vote (which, when you think about it, could mean you voted out of concern that too much is being made of moral values and you voted against someone for that reason!), but we know one thing for sure about you.
You represent 50 to 60% of the population. You, my friend, are in the majority, even here in Licking County. What are you thinking about in regard to your faith, and the faith communities of your neighbors? I’d like this column to engage you, You, and your family.
Right, and then there’s all of us regular church-goin’ folk. We do tend to be more likely to vote, run for office, organize events and activities, report a higher degree of personal happiness in general (and, say researchers, even a better sex life!), so it’s no wonder the doings of congregations and ministries tend to get coverage. I intend to comment on all of that, including the parenthetical note, because from Alexis deTocqueville to Alistair Cooke, foreign observers have focused on voluntary involvement, stemming from faith commitments, as what makes the American experience unique.
E-mail me, talk to me on the street or around the programs we’ll bump into each other at, and we will learn together about the creative tension between faith and works for believers, and how faith works in Licking County!

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