Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Faith Works 10-22-05
Jeff Gill

Understanding May Come After Respect

Rick Steeves was talking in my car the other day. Granted, he was on a public radio pledge drive, talking about the books that were incentives for the fund pitch, telling you how to travel around Europe cheaply and well.
Travel is one of those lifestyles to which I’d like to be accustomed, but some of what good travel writing – even in a guidebook! – can teach you is how to live closer to home. Finding the romance of the everyday, as well as a good deal for dinner, is useful just down the road and not just in a small Romanian village.
What caught my attention in Rick’s talk was a set of suggestions about respect when observing events that are strange to you: parades and processions, ceremonies and celebrations, whether on Sicily on down the Danube River.
Americans, Mr. Steeves gently suggested, are a bit "respect challenged" (my phrase, not his) in that we often can see the world as a very large version of the Main Street Parade in Disneyworld or the March of the Nations at EPCOT. Assuming that any spectacle is there first and foremost to take pictures of (yes, the Japanese have some issues here as travelers also), and even for us to plant our children in the midst of, we can be ruder than stink without quite meaning to.
Tonight’s Moonrise observance (weather willing, or perhaps Sunday night if clouds press in before 10 pm), starting from the parking lots of OSU-N and shuttling out to the Octagon Earthworks, is one such challenge right here in Licking County. For all the flyers and brochures and trained volunteers and staff all about, we worry that some will, almost out of reflex, start snapping flash pictures as the Native American spiritual leaders begin the procession into the viewing area.
For Native Americans, the simple hand drum and cluster of singers is what a crucifix or monstrance are to many others. Even those whose belief or theology isn’t oriented the same way have some sense that you don’t jump out into the aisle and blind the acolytes and priest holding sacred objects, but let’s not even talk about weddings . . .
Why is the singing around the steady beat of a drum sacred? Candidly, I can’t really explain it very well, even if I had a whole page and your full attention to do it. It isn’t my belief, either.
But we don’t need full understanding to understand that respect for small simple things is right and proper, whether in the old city of Kyoto, Japan or just off 33rd Street in Newark. And I firmly believe that our respect in such situations can carry back into our own worship with a deeper appreciation of what and why we hold certain moments or objects in reverence, whether it’s Grandma’s Bible on the hall table or the table in the front of our sanctuary.
See you when you get off the shuttle bus from OSU-N!

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he’s been working hard for months on arrangements for the events described at Or suggest column ideas for after this long-awaited weekend to

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