Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Notes From My Knapsack 2-06-05
By Jeff Gill

The name has such a ring to it: “Avalon.”
A place of wonder and mystery, Avalon appears in Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur,” the story of Britain’s mythic early king, his court at Camelot and his final battle with Mordred. Wounded, King Arthur is borne off by three queens to the Blessed Isle, with a Vale of Apples, Avalon, where he might heal from his injuries and weariness.
The word “Avalon” has looked over West Main Street in Newark for a century and a quarter or so, just across from the new library. An apartment block with bay windows and balconies, turrets and peaks, the mystique has in recent years been more one of the Castle Perilous, with decay exhaling from broken windows and cracked slate askew marking the roofline.
But no more! Healed from its grievous wounds, returning like the once and future king himself, the Avalon Apartments have returned to health and beauty, looking proudly back across to the shining windows of the library that reflect back a reborn building.
And what Merlin accomplished this wizardry? No less than the workaday magic of Licking County LEADS, our local community action agency headed by Ken Kempton. With yeoman (or yeowoman) efforts from Charlene Wray who now works elsewhere, and many, many other local partners, Ken proudly shared the restored and renewed building with the community last week.
Shirley Colley from Buckeye Lake was among the visitors delighting in the new apartments, reserved for older Licking Countians below certain income guidelines. She recalled visiting her aunt and uncle in brighter days, when the Avalon was an address claimed with pride, and marveled at the views, so different and still the same, out what would have been their windows.
For everyone involved, from public officials to architects to builders . . . but most especially, to the staff at LEADS, thank you for bringing Avalon back to our community as a place for secure rest and a base for new adventures. There’s more than a bit of romance in the idea of a reborn building, and with a name like Avalon, the mist clears and the magic is seen clearly by the bright light of day.
What blessed isles of refuge could yet be restored? Let’s support our public officials and organizations like LEADS and the Licking County Coalition for Housing as they work to preserve our built heritage for a very human but still magical present.

Jeff Gill is an Arthurian troubadour and occasional scribbler who can be reached, when not attending building dedications, at
Faith Works 2-05-05
By Jeff Gill

Father Tom Shonebarger, pastor some years back at Blessed Sacrament in Newark, had an observation about the beginning of Lent that has stuck with me. (Yes, Lent starts this week!)
Father Tom suggested that “we should contemplate our mortality” as a spiritual discipline. Contemplate our mortality as finite beings, as human persons who will have a date on the other end of a “dash,” and meditate on the fact that the world will continue to rotate and vegetate and motivate even after we’ve, well, died.
Right: as a Catholic priest (now serving over in Columbus at St. Timothy’s), Tom affirms the Christian teaching of resurrection. But his point was that we shouldn’t skip right ahead to heaven and eternity, but let the solid grounding of our limitations enter into our hopes and dreams. Many of you will hear versions of this further on in Lent, when clergy of many denominations try to get us to not skip from peak to peak in Holy Week, neglecting Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to jump straight from Palm Sunday to Easter.
A different take on “contemplating our mortality” is making a splash on television right now, a show called “Medium.” An hour long drama based on a woman who claims to see and talk to the dead, helping to solve crimes (of course), has been one of NBC’s biggest new hits.
Meanwhile, Sylvia Browne is a regular on Larry King’s CNN show chatting with the dearly departed, with shows featuring James VanPraagh and John Edwards (no, not the coiffed lawyer who ran for something lately) racking up decent cable ratings while asking “do you know someone who has passed with a ‘T’ in their name? They’re behind you now.”
And this very newspaper runs ads from local psychic counselors who claim much the same skill, and are making enough of a living to indicate that there’s a market for mediums in this large county. In fact, just off the Sweet Corn Festival grounds in Millersport is Summerland Beach Road, almost all that’s left of a century-ago camp for Spiritualists who had organized an church around services where you talked to those who had passed over to the “Summerland.” Members of this church can be found dotted around central Ohio.
For many believers, this subject is a tricky one. Most Christians would strongly affirm “life after death,” while being, shall we say, “agnostic” about communications with the saints in heaven. Some point to Deuteronomic passages and call it wrong if not evil, while others can rightly note that Saul consulted the medium at Endor in I Samuel 28 to speak to Samuel’s shade…note how that all turned out, though.
Best known is the encounter known as the “Transfiguration,” where Peter sees Moses and Elijah standing conversing with Jesus. No one other than Jesus heard what the departed had to say, however, and putting ourselves in Jesus’ place is dicey for this kind of situation.
I’m quite certain that there are people who are sincerely convinced that loved ones have returned to communicate something important to them, most often in dreams. These encounters can be very significant for both the resolution of grief and and the solution of personal problems of the living, and I take them very seriously when talking to a person about them.But do people really hear from the dead? I can’t rule it out, scripturally or personally. They are, perhaps, moments when we are indirectly, gingerly acknowledging that endings and resolution are matters rarely far from our minds, consciously or not.With Father Tom, i'd have to agree that "contemplating our mortality" is harder to do than envisioning eternity, but might just be a good way to bring both mind and heart into alignment.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio. You can reach him (while alive!) at