Monday, May 09, 2005

Notes From My Knapsack 05-15-05 (ran 5-22-05; NHRA inserts bump everybody!)
Jeff Gill

Next weekend, on Sunday afternoon May 22, the Midland Theatre on Newark’s Courthouse Square, you will hear that “The Melody Lingers On.”
What melody? Well, voices of barbershop quartets and choruses in four-part harmony make melody, as does the hard work over many months of the Land of Legend Barbershop Chorus. The melody of co-ordination, co-operation, and communication is what these men in red vests would love to hear growing out of their work on stage, among those who come to listen and enjoy.
Fans of barbershop music have always had an almost spiritual sense of what listening to and singing in barbershop groups does . . . think “The Music Man” and the village council Prof. Hill made friends of and you’ll know what I mean.
John Tegtmeyer was long an evangelist for the impact of barbershopping, and his death last October was in one way just another occasion for the men of not only this chorus but neighbor barbershoppers from Franklin, Muskingum, and other counties to come and sing their gospel for a big crowd needing a little harmony in their lives.
So the Land of Legend gang has dedicated their annual concert, at the Midland 3 pm next Sunday, to John’s memory. Along with some fond reminiscences of their late director, you will also hear their friends “Park Avenue,” winners of the quartet competition at the last district contest. You can find tickets from any fellow you see in a red striped vest, at the Village Barbershop in Granville, or at the door for $10.
You’ll get two hours of good entertainment, and a little melody in your soul that will linger on.
What else is going on these days? Right, an anniversary celebration: St. Dunstan’s Day is this year the twentieth anniversary of the Lovely Wife joining me in marriage (what day? Look it up: St. Dunstan, patron saint of brewing and rational reform, once abbot of Glastonbury and archbishop of Canterbury).
May is a good month in our household, bringing us both a nuptial commemoration and the Little Guy’s birthdate as well.
Someone pointed out that events overran a half-finished thought some weeks back: how does one stay happily married for 20 years? It still seems to me that it really isn’t that long (it isn’t), but with the “divorces granted” column in the Advocate out-lengthening the “marriage licenses issued” most weeks, there must be something to however we’ve gone about wedded bliss.
As to most canned wisdom, I can snort at most lines thrown to floundering newlyweds. “We’ve never argued.” I still have trouble believing anyone who says that, no matter how cute the 89 year old couple on TV is in their matching rocking chairs. Somebody must be repressing a bit there, at best. “Never go to bed angry.” Um, we like sleep too much to follow that one to the letter. “Separate checking accounts.” I see the attraction, but we’ve never had enough money to make that worth even considering, and we’re both balance-each-month-to-the-penny kind of people, anyhow.
My best shot at wisdom of the homegrown variety, at least of a sort that might be of use to anyone not married to either of us, is in two sides of a single coin.
Forgiveness, paired with being intentional. Forgiveness, because no marriage is going anywhere good if you don’t come to grips with what Rex Harrison grappled with in “My Fair Lady.” Why can’t she/he be more like me? News flash: they can’t, they won’t, and you gotta let it go. Forgiveness, on both the little and the big things, is the necessary element of all marriage.
And being intentional? Huh? Well, too many occasions talking with too many half couples have told me that most of us go through our own lives, let alone living with others, woefully unaware of what we’re doing and why we do it. Intentional living, which can truly be painful at first, is the only route to happiness I know, and that goes more than double for two living as one. Marriage does not just happen, and happy marriages are worked on, maintained, cherished, and even tinkered with a bit.
Some of you reading this might suspect that what I mean by “intentional living” sounds almost “purpose driven,” and you would be right! My purpose this week is to go celebrate an anniversary, so have a great weekend, and I’ll answer e-mail to much later, like Memorial Day.

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Faith Works 05-14-05
Jeff Gill

Church camp is a summer phenomenon, but now is the time to sign up, get ready, or if you direct a camp for your congregation or denomination, to recruit counselors!
Quite a few groups (the United Church of Christ, for whom I direct) have significant price reductions if you register by May, rather than a few weeks before the camp opens. Frankly, groups that don’t put a significant cost incentive on registering early are missing the boat in two ways: families already are setting up their summer schedule with reservations and other sport or activity camps, so you are just helping them get arranged anyhow – and those who run camps can’t know how many will come in time to prepare without a decent pre-reg number.
But it is true that church camps, unlike soccer or baseball or cheerleading week-long sessions, are notoriously willing to forgive late comers, and that only stands to reason.
Camp is a faith formation opportunity like no other. A child who attends a one-hour Sunday school every week of the year gets maybe 50 hours of education and fellowship in their tradition in the best of circumstances. A young person who goes to a typical Sunday afternoon to Saturday morning week at camp, even adjusting for sleep, gets 70 to 90 hours of experience shaped by song, prayer, worship, and community that builds a foundation for the entire year back at home.
The best church camp programs present themselves as exactly that: a tool to empower the youth program of the fellowship group back home the other 51 weeks. No six days at any facility can be the basis for faith and growth the entire year, but the memories and lessons learned there can weave through dozens of group meetings and youth-led worship services.
How do you determine what camp is right for your child? Ideally, you can talk to your pastor or fellowship leader for guidance about what your church offers and how it is run. Most clergy can also put you in contact with the directors of the particular week you are considering, so you can talk to them about your child and what they would experience.
As a director for many years in a variety of settings, I have always been willing to talk to parents and kids who are wanting to know more about what our camp is and does. Frankly, if you can’t do that, I’m not sure I’d want to send my child to that camp. Ask your questions now, and know that most camp staffers love to do that because if you wait until Sunday afternoon registration, I guarantee that you will get a desperate, pleading look of “sir/ma’am, I’m checking in 89 kids, and you want to know about the quality of our toilet paper?”
Not all church camps follow American Camping Association guidelines, but those that do have an outside inspection of program and management issues. Every camp in Ohio is, I can assure you, inspected to within an inch of their lives, by the county health department wherever they are located, as to food service and hygiene facilities. That you can rest easy about.
What you want the week at church camp to accomplish is a family decision that starts at home, and continues after your child returns home. Think about your hopes for learning and doing, communicate those to your child as well as the camp you attend, and take an interest in what they bring home besides the crafts and insects rolled up in their dirty clothes. You will find camp can bring spiritual dividends all year long as you do.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; if you have camp questions or stories to tell, e-mail