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!

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Winter Storm With Spring Impact
by Jeff Gill

Our Christmas week ice storm in Licking County has left piles of fallen branches and not a few toppled trees along streets and even across housetops.
With power restored over most of the area, residents are counting their blessings and starting the task of tidying up woodpiles or replacing gutters and shingles. The affected trees, though, may not be done having an effect on homes and structures.
“Some damage may not be immediately apparent,” said Howard Siegrist, OSU Extension Educator for Licking County. Even some very large branches could be cracked to the point where the added weight of leaves in the spring can bring them down. “Decay, as well as cracks, may lead to structural loss, causing the tree or large branches to become hazardous,” he adds.
While the inches of ice, adding up to several tons of weight, literally killed many trees, bringing them down in whole or in part, most of those damaged can survive: they may just need a little help. But work on damaged trees carefully!
“Homeowners working on their trees need to use extreme caution,” Siegrist urges. OSU Extension recommends not climbing a damaged tree, or touching trees near electrical wires. You should never climb a tree with a chain saw (lift it to yourself with a rope once you’re in place), and always assess your situation carefully with an eye to safety hazards.
“Most tree work needs to be done by professional arborists,” Siegrist notes, “especially when the work requires climbing or the tree is leaning against another tree or structure.”
Much “hidden” damage will be revealed in the spring, when discolored leaves or bare branches show that a limb that looks fine from below is actually broken through above. Breaks in the bark also will attract pests such as borers and bark beetles, so these diseased limbs should be removed to reduce the threat to neighboring healthy trees. If you have specific landscape damage questions, you can call Licking County Extension at 349-6900.
Outside of your own yard or property, a careful eye above will be vitally important for months to come.
“Widowmaker” is the term old woodsfolk use for dead tree limbs that hang high and out of sight, ready to drop without warning on passersby. A hunter climbing into a treestand, birders out to see warblers perching in the early spring, or just a family of hikers could find their day interrupted by a potentially fatal incident.
The existence of the term shows that this is a long-standing and well-known piece of woods lore that is all the more relevant this year. The ice storm that closed 2004 may have a second shot at Licking County long into 2005 if we’re not careful!

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Notes From My Knapsack 1-09-05
By Jeff Gill

“Three removes equal one fire” said Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanac. Old firehorse that he was, Ben knew a bit about fires, and his earlier poorer days gave him and Deborah his wife some familiarity with moving.
The Lovely Wife and I have moved now ten times in not quite twenty years of marriage, five of them with the Little Guy and the appurtenances that come with a young’un (most of them clearly labeled “Matchbox,” which they are emphatically larger than, worse luck). By Mr. Franklin’s count, we’ve had over three fires together . . . but wait, there really was one fire (with flames and everything), just not in a house. Yes, I’ve managed to misplace one church I once served through conflagration, but it wasn’t me; at least, that’s what the arson squad said. LW still is thankful that we don’t have those hundreds of books still to move that added a nice blue tinge to the flames over the building, what with all the pretty colors in the covers.
Still, we have progressively more stuff each move, one way or another, which is a sobering experience to assess, and my back muscles have assessed very accurately that we either must never move again, or get rid of stuff.
She of the loveliness at home sayeth: Both.
And, of course, she is right.
More on getting rid of stuff in some future column, you can be sure.
But what about this “(re)moves and fires” business? Well, you have to recall that both fires were more common and moving was much more challenging in 1757.
If you visit Ben Franklin’s house site in Philadelphia, just a few blocks from Independence Hall, you’ll find just that, a site. The architect Robert Venturi designed a very nice steel framework that evokes the outlines of the building once behind the print shop which would have been his longest domicile, but it fell (as did most Colonial era homes) to a chimney fire.
Out in the wilds of a place like, say, the Ohio country in the 1700’s, the chimney was oftimes literally built on a slant, a pile of stone propped up with long poles that could be kicked out by a householder when the first whiff of fire was in the air.
In the city, where structures were so close, this simple method of fire protection was generally not possible, and so they tended to catch more often. Still, with large solid timbers, it wasn’t unusual for homes and buildings to catch fire many times over their lives. Smoke damage, singeing, and the stray splash of water from one of the volunteer fire companies (another area in which Franklin was a pioneer, perhaps out of no little self-interest); this would be the worst most fires would bring to your three linen undershirts, two waistcoats, and extra breeches and buckled shoes. Pottery rode out your average house fire quite well, and even the family Bible, thick and bound in thicker leather, might just pick up a stray scorch or two as a souvenir.
Moving, on the other hand, with wooden crates a precious commodity, meant goods heaped into the back of an open wagon, buffered by a few burlap sacks if you could find some not in use.
If you didn’t have a sharp eye and quick hand riding the tailgate as you bumped through the narrow, crowded streets of town to your new address, a sharper, quicker hand might filch a pitcher or plate.
On arrival, you could find that the jostling against the wagonbed could not only scramble your goods, but dent, scratch, and smash even pewter.
So it was that Franklin could say, to knowing nods of agreement, “Three removes equal one fire.”

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and occasional preacher in central Ohio; if you have tales to tell of moves gone well or awry, e-mail him at

Monday, January 03, 2005

You May Already Be Sharing9.0 earthquake, 500 mile an hour tidal waves, 60 feet high walls of water mixed with concrete block and palm tree trunks. These basic facts have become well known. The day after Christmas became something like the movie "The Day After Tomorrow" for southeast Asia.Less well known is that the day after that, a Sunday, was a day for giving and sharing whose impact will not be known for some time to come.In faith communities around the world, across the United States, and right here in Licking County where the roads to church were often still blocked by downed trees and power lines, churches and congregations started to open up their hearts and wallets in record numbers.Governmental assistance will fly the helicopters and float the large machinery for de-salting water and treating waste, but much of the disaster response will come from church-related groups that were heading into the affected area even before many of us knew the tragedy had occured.In fact, you may have already given aid to the relief effort. Licking County has a CROP Walk each fall, largely made up of walkers along a ten kilometer route who got pledges from fellow worshipers and neighbors (you?). CROP Walks are a major part of the budget for Church World Service (CWS), the combined agency for 36 Protestant, Orthodox, and Anglican denominations to deal with international emergencies like floods, famines, or . . . earthquakes and tsunamis.CWS already has $900,000 in supplies on the way to Indonesia and Sri Lanka out of what they have on hand, and hope to send millions more.(See to share more in their work.)Catholic Relief Services is "the official international relief and development agency of the U.S. Catholic community"(See for their web site and secure link for donations.)Representing the 23% of the U.S. that is Catholic, they have sent $500,000 in aid and commit to another $25 million on behalf of their 60 million members.Five million souls are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Lutheran World Relief has sent $150,000, with a pledge of more to come.(See and follow the links.)Even more modestly sized denominations like the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) with less than a million members in the U.S. and Canada have sent $55,000 to expedite shipping for CWS, and pledge a minimum of $250,000. They work through another co-operative body, "Week of Compassion," known in other denominations as "One Great Hour of Sharing," where the money and materials for disaster relief is held ready for a time like this.(See for denominational links and donation options.)What all of these relief agencies have in common, along with their work in our names, are two more things.Each effort notes the importance of prayer in supporting the hearts and intentions of those who are face to face with tragedy, and they all remind us, cautiously, that the needs in places like western Sudan and Afghanistan continue.It's good that we've often already given, but the work clearly goes on. At least we're not alone, in many ways!