Saturday, February 10, 2007

Faith Works 2-10-07
Jeff Gill

When Verses Collide!

Well, your faithful scribe had some well-timed St.
Valentine’s week observations on love and marriage
and relationships. Then reality happened, as so often
occurs; can we pick up later, in the wake of all the
cupids and red doilies getting packed away? Thanks.

This past week saw a classic collision, for Christians,
of two well-known, clearly stated, much honored
Scripture passages. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says
in chapter 25: 31-46, of acts of charity and assistance to
the needy that "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of
the least of these my brethren, you did it to me. . . Truly, I
say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these,
you did it not to me."

Paul says to the fledgling church in Rome, capital of the
empire which oppressed and jailed and killed
Christians, at chapter 13: "Let every person be subject
to the governing authorities."

So what’s a Christian to do when the governing
authorities close down a homeless shelter?
Roger & Marilyn Morgan have been working hard on
Newark’s East End with Last Call Ministries (see ) for some years now, and
they’ve long hoped for a chance to open a shelter for
single adults. Between New Beginnings for abused
women and their children, and the Salvation Army’s
logistical challenge of three spaces, which could hold
eighteen or so, but if there’s a parent and child in each,
only six (it’s actually more complicated than that, but
you see the problem), there’s a clear lack of shelter
space for individuals who’ve hit a crisis point.
In a county of 150,000 souls, the idea that more than
one or two adults on their own, particularly men, might
need emergency shelter at any given time, is no stretch.

For a compassionate community, downtown
dumpsters don’t cut it, and churches and groups like
the Saint Vincent dePaul conferences at local Catholic
Christian parishes are spending money when they can
at hotels for such folk, but it’s not an ideal use of
benevolence money.

So when their plans weren’t a hundred percent set, but
as a near-record cold snap set in, the folks with the
Morgans at Last Call Ministries decided to step up and
open quick this winter.

Then the city of Newark found itself between a rock and
a cold place. With one entrance, the building was not
technically habitable, and when the "governing
authorities" became aware of the situation, they closed
the shelter down.

On the coldest night of 2007.

I actually see two dilemmas here, that I’d hope all
people of faith and anyone of good will would consider.
On the one hand, I believe the city when they say they’ll
get people off the street in harsh weather, whatever it
takes. I’m guessing the jail plays a role in that, but I’m
still not clear. What makes my trust useless to those
who may be homeless, is that they don’t trust the city
enough to follow the process, ask for help, be willing to
wait at a counter or desk until the mills of civic life start

Some might say, "well, if they’re so ‘impatient’ they’d
rather sleep out and maybe die, that’s not taxpyers’
problem." I have, really, nothing to say to that person.

But the other dilemma is that the city knows, and we
should be aware, that the moment an exception or
"pass" is given to us as Christians, to do what we
believe God calls us to do, there are unscrupulous
landlords, developers, and outright predators who will
jump in and say "me, too!" And that most certainly
includes little things like second doors, let alone toilets
that flush, or walls that you can see moonlight through
on the corners, with snow puffing into the bedroom
around the outsides of the windows.

Roger told me on Wednesday that, at that point, he
needed prayers, and a plumber, "…but in that order!" In
my opinion, Last Call Outreach is trying to house the
folks who tend to drop through the holes in our system
of care in this community, that are no less inexcusable
than gaps in the wall of a rental house.

The dilemma of connecting the broad spectrum of
services available, to people who aren’t always well
equipped to find or use them, is on the worktable of a
great group of people, right now (I’ll have more about
them soon!). They’re working hard, and fast, but when
the thermometer hits –5 below, we still find there are
still gaps.

Give Last Call your support (check the website for more
info), and The Salvation Army as well, along with
providers of emergency and transitional housing
across the spectrum. Your church is probably doing
something already; get involved.

Jesus and Paul didn’t mean to start an argument, and
the apostle takes a back seat when governments are
actively evil. This situation is one where everyone is
working towards the right in their own way, but we’ve
got a ways to go to get to the Promised Land.

Where the temps are more in the high 70’s, I hear.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher
around central Ohio; tell him a story at

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Notes From My Knapsack 2-11-07
Jeff Gill

Scouting For a New Century

Through the beginning of February, you may notice the uniform of Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Girl Scouts in some different settings, especially in churches around your community.Feb. 8, 1910 is the date of the national charter of the Boy Scouts of America; Cub Scouting was founded in 1930 for younger boys. Girl Scouting began when Juliette Low of Savannah, Georgia met Gen. Baden-Powell, the originator and founder of the Scouting Movement, and took the idea home to start in her carriage house, which looked like a chalet (and now you know where some of those cookie names come from!).

Girl Scouting marks a birthdate of March 12, 1912, so some areas have Brownies, Daisies, Junior or Senior Scouts marking the start of next month.In quite a few churches you’ll see the whole mob showing up together, for a "Scouting Sunday" with youth involved in the worship service in some way.This is a year with particular interest, since the retired hero of the Boer War, Robert Stephenson Smythe Baden-Powell, did the first practical test of the Scouting program in the summer of 1907, on Brownsea Island off Poole Harbour in the south of England.

This May and through the summer, centennial celebrations throughout Scouting, including our area’s Simon Kenton Council, will gather old Scouts and new. Ross County will host a council wide "camp-o-ree," Cub Day Camp at Licking County’s own Camp Falling Rock will mark the century.In 2005 there were nearly 3 million Girl Scouts of all age levels, and 3 million Boy Scouts from Cubs to Venturers (plus a couple million registered "Scouters," the adult volunteers that run the program). Around the world there are 38 million youth from 216 countries enrolled in the program on one level or another.

But why the emphasis on church services this time of year? What many don’t realize is that Scouting is, well, franchised to local organizations. Other than the screening registration for adults, to check a national database for the safety and security of the youth, Boy Scout units in particular are "chartered" to a group that is responsible for delivering the program. That charter is usually (but not always) to a congregation.

The United Methodist Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka Mormons) hold over three-fourths of all the BSA charters nationwide. The LDS Church has actually made Scouting their youth program within the church.

So Scout Sunday or Scout Sabbath is a way of saying thank you to the organizations that host, sponsor, or otherwise support their program. Even units chartered to a service club or group (and where I once was District Commissioner, we had a troop chartered to "Ziggy’s Archery") still may meet at a church or get major support from a congregation.

Our local service unit, Licking District of the By Scouts, has the right to nominate adult volunteers for an honor called the "Silver Beaver." This centennial year for Scouting, our district is proud that we were given the right to award two highly deserving Silver Beaver Awards for service to youth in their own unit, and in their community as well.

Ina Heath of Utica, and Dwight "Aby" Johnson (should I say, of Camp Falling Rock?) are this county’s contribution to the eleven Silver Beavers given in all of the Simon Kenton Council, among 8,000 adult volunteers spread from Delaware County to Maysville, KY. Ina has served her troop, the district, and the camping honorary called the "Order of the Arrow" for many years. She would also happily say she hasn’t done so as long as Aby Johnson has served Scouting, going back to when he was one of our very first Licking County Scouts to go to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, back when the paths were barely marked.

Hearing his tales of railtravel alone and a bit of hitchhiking, as a teenager in the years just after World War II, is a reminder of how far we’ve come but also of some of what we’ve left behind. Both of them are committed scouters who have improved the lives of countless Scouts who never even knew their names.

But we honor them, and look forward to seeing them out at Camp Falling Rock, where the 75+ year old Franklin Lodge will soon be joined by the new Sequoia Eagle Lodge, and a new century of Scouting continues!

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he’s almost as proud of being an Eagle Scout and Silver Beaver as he is of the Little Guy’s upcoming Bear badge in Cub Scouts. Tell him a scouting tale at

* * *

Faith in the Arena 2-03-07
By Jeff Gill

If Barack Obama says it, it must be so, right?

About the two coaches matched against each other in tomorrow's little shindig down in Miami, he's quoted in the Chicago Tribune: "It's a wonderful story. Obviously, to see two African-American coaches go to the Super Bowl when it has been historically difficult for black coaches to break into the NFL is terrific. But you know what makes it even better is that they are both men of humility, they are both men of God," Obama said. "They never trash talk. They are not yellers and screamers on the sidelines. They are just a couple of class individuals."

I began seminary in Indianapolis after the Colts made their midnight move from Baltimore to Indianapolis and got used to Irsay family quotes, many of which had to be edited for the sports page, or the front page of a courteous newspaper. Never were they on the religion page. So I was startled to hear that night on national television the owner, Jim Irsay, announce as he hefted the conference championship award: "There's a lot of glory up here with this trophy. As the humble leader of this organization, we're giving all the glory to God."

Ignoring, for the moment, it may be Jim has a ways to go in his spiritual growth if he thinks you should declare yourself as humble, that's quite a statement for a team owner.

Given networks have taken to ever-more-careful camera shots at game's end to not show the large and growing number of players from both teams that kneel on the center logo of the field at the end of play to give thanks for a game well played, Jimbo took an opportunity that couldn't be edited out to say something about faith. Go ahead and be proud a bit, Mr. Irsay.

Tony Dungy, the Indy coach, has been more subtle and circumspect about his faith, making those who notice such things even more sure of the solidity and foundational quality of where he stands. The tragic death of his son last year, the sermon he preached as part of that memorial and the ongoing commitment to promoting responsible fatherhood in Indiana is part of who his community knows him to be, even a few hundred miles up I-65 to the competition's city, where the senator from Da Bears also said: "You can tell the loyalty and affection that their players have for them. It is a wonderful story, not just for African-Americans but for all Americans to see men like that who are good fathers, who are good leaders, who do things the right way, succeed."

But Dungy did say after the Patriots' game wild ending: "The Lord set this up in a way that no one would believe it. The Lord tested us a lot this year, but He set this up to get all the glory."

Even his quarterback weighed in. Peyton Manning offered on ESPN, "I said a little prayer there on that last drive," Manning acknowledged of a possession that culminated in the winning 3-yard touchdown run by rookie tailback Joseph Addai with just one minute remaining. "I don't know if you're supposed to pray or not in those kinds of situations, but I did." And a national TV audience saw him do quite a bit of praying during the last drive by New England.

So for all you Colts and Bears fans tomorrow -- is it a time for prayer? I've heard the great coach and passionate Christian (and Purdue alumnus!) John Wooden say it always is appropriate to pray for the right spirit of competitiveness, safety for all and that you play your best, but praying that the other guy break an ankle is likely to come back on you.
Dan Reeves and Tom Landry have said much the same: "Lord, help us do our best." But praying to win alone is, to paraphrase, an unhealthy spiritual discipline.
Kind of like what we'll be eating tomorrow afternoon.

Whatever your interest in football, which team you'll pray will "do their best," or however you snack, remember the youth in your congregation is likely to do some kind of "Souper Bowl" support for food pantries and hunger programs tomorrow as well.

One way to participate is when you're buying junk for watching the game, pick up an item of canned goods for each item of snackage and take those soup cans and tinned tuna or jars of peanut butter to church with you Sunday morning. This is often a bare-shelf time of year for pantries, so join your "Souper Bowl" however you can.

I'll be praying for you to do your best.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller and supply preacher around Central Ohio; share a story at