Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Faith Works 06-04-05
Jeff Gill

Ten Reasons To Go To Church This Summer

1. It’s air conditioned. Really, most are anymore, even the little rural ones.
Of course, you may think it’s too cool, but you can wear a sweater; it may be that you are hot blooded, and wish it were more like a meat locker, but modern styles allow shortsleeves in church. You’ll be comfortable.
2. I’m told it may not be air conditioned other places. If you go to church, they can help you avoid those spots, um, in the long term. Just ask.
3. Either way, everyone relaxes the dress code. Formal churches get less so, and more unstructured churches are how they always are, so don’t sweat the shirt selection so much. Put on something clean, and any church in the county will welcome you; dirty shirts really aren’t such a problem, either. No one ever went to the hot place (see #2) over breaking the dress code. For pushing someone out over the dress code, possibly . . .
4. If you don’t go, they’ll talk about you.
Now, I’ve spent an awful lot of time over my years as a parish pastor telling people that other folks actually don’t talk about them as much as they think they are, or that the look they think someone gave them might have been their breakfast, not their attitude.
But you can’t get around the fact that they can’t talk about you as much as when you’re there.
5. Everyone lightens up a bit during the summertime.
Yes, even pastors. Look, we all know folks have twice the temptations to go and do other things in June, July, and August than even the rest of the frantic, frenetic year we have nowadays. So Sunday school teachers, preachers, those who pray or sing in the service are really bringing their “A game” during the summer months. Plus you are more likely to get the youth just back from camp telling amazing stories of spiritual uplift, or fellow worshipers who have been on a mission trip back testifying about the transformative experiences they had in Mexico, the Appalachians, on a Native American reservation, or who knows where overseas.
6. Crafts. Yes, you too. Even we craft-impaired people would benefit from integrating mind and body into our spirituality, and crafts aren’t busy work, they are at their best “soul work” of the most enduring kind. Crafts I no longer have I remember the lessons of better than stuff I’ve got on the shelf in the dining room.
7. Outdoor worship. Many places have at least one outside worship experience through the summer, and it really can change how you look at church the other 51 Sundays. Try it!
8. Ya gotta get out of bed sometime. Stay in bed after sunrise is fun occasionally, but it can leave you feeling really creaky if you do it too much. Go to church already, will ya?
9. It is true that summer attendance is a bit lower in most churches through these months; that means parking spaces and finding a seat in the worship space is much easier.
10. Licking County has over 200 places of worship regularly gathering. One of them is likely to suit you, and be there for you as a community when you need the strength and support that even family can’t always provide, and a faith for an uncertain future. Look around, and visit a few this summer.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio. Contact him at
Notes From My Knapsack 06-05-05
Jeff Gill

The Lawn and Winding Road

Maintaining a diverse ecosystem is a good thing, right? We’ve all heard about the downside of monoculture, vast swaths of one plant across huge areas, vulnerable to so many ills and threats, any one of which can wreak havoc on the whole.
And no one alive today hasn’t heard that diversity is the modern watchword.
Not when it comes to lawns. The societal expectation is grass, lots of grass, kept even, green, and free of alien intruders . . . like the ones that have been here for thousands of years on prairies and forested river bottoms.
If I fertilize aggressively with broadleaf herbicides mixed in, I’m likely to go from mowing every five days as it is to mowing every other day. On the other hand, with dandelions, plantain, thistle, and the omnipresent clover, the grass may be edged out of the rich variety that is my front yard.
And as the Martian might say, on the other other hand, the Little Guy couldn’t have found a four-leaf clover in front of the house if we had a deep green even lawn.
Actually, I like the exercise of mowing regularly (since it makes me exercise regularly, for one thing) and getting the winter kinks out of my legs and back. A set of sharpened blades and a new air filter brings a happy roar from the red and grey grass chomper, now 13 years old and going strong, and the unmistakable scent of mown grass, nearly undescribable except as itself, says warm weather even when it isn’t so warm.
I call it a mix of onion and banana, smell wise, but your proboscis may differ.
Out away from houses and well maintained frontages, the forests have filled out to their max of foliage. On North Street in Hebron and below Swasey Chapel at Denison the catalpa trees have lit their torches high up, blossoming in stalks up where you have to crane your necks to see them. Likewise the yellow, or tulip poplars have their peach and orange and yellow flowers now, only visible to most of us when they fall to earth like a gift from on high. 70, 90, over a hundred feet above the forest floor, they mostly flower their brightest and widest where only the swifts and hawks can see.
The vertical depth of forest life, when phenomena like tulip poplar blossoms flutter into my awareness from above, always reminds me of the scene in “The Hobbit” when the dwarves and Bilbo are lost in Mirkwood.
The unlucky (he thinks) hobbit is picked to climb a high tree in the dense forest, trying to spy out where they are and which direction they should go, Mirkwood being very like the Ohio Simon Kenton first described where “a squirrel could travel a hundred feet off the ground from the Great River to the Great Lakes without touching ground.”
When Bilbo’s face first peeked out into sunlight climbing into the canopy of his fictional forest, he sees an ocean of treetops and leaves, undulating to the horizon in all directions. And he is heartened, oddly, by a few darkly colorful butterflies, violet-hued, living their lives in the sun while they marched in darkness far below, each mostly unaware of the other.
There is so much richness in everyday life just a few feet, or maybe a few hundred feet at most away from the ruts we tend to follow. Use this summer to climb a tree, or climb out of a rut, and check out the view. You might find a mysterious flower, an unseen butterfly, or make a friend.
Or read “The Hobbit” if you haven’t, or haven’t lately!

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he and the Lovely Wife are telling some stories at Infirmary Mound Park on June 4 at 7 pm. You can tell him a story through