Thursday, November 01, 2007

Faith Works 11-3-07
Jeff Gill

Fall Back Into November

“Novem,” the Latin word for nine, reminds us in this eleventh month of our year that New Year’s in ancient Rome was March.

But the new year, and all the events leading up to the turn of the calendar, liturgically and socially, are pressing in close.

On this fine fall morning, if you’re reading this and not planning to trot over to Columbus for the Wisconsin game, there are a number of options.

The Habitat for Humanity folks are working their way through the very last steps of completing the last house they’ll build on Monroe Street. The dedication has been pushed back to the start of December, and a few volunteers for trim painting and tacking up shed siding will be welcome today – just drive through the E. Main and Buena Vista intersection, cross the tracks and turn south immediately, then turn right before you enter the railyard, and go to the street’s end.

For the faith-formed folk who have kept the momentum behind our local chapter, many thanks; the new homeowners have been doing their sweat equity to make their down payment, and the interest-free payments they’ll make will roll on into the next house. Stay tuned for more updates on that!

Also today out at Camp Falling Rock is Apple Butter Day, which has no real religious connection at all, but if you want to start feeling thankful as practice before the big day, there’s little else that shows the bounty of nature and the grace of creation than an autumnal trip out past Wilkins’ Corners and up to Houdeshell Road, where you can help stir the copper kettle and smell the heavenly scent of apple butter cooking down from the beautiful fruit of the trees.

Some of you will start turning your clocks back around noon, which makes evening a preview of the official end of Daylight Savings Time, which isn’t chronologically until 2 am Sunday. Given the number of clocks we have around the house (coffee maker, blender, microwave, curler set, sound system, car dashboards, digital fireplace, light timers, watches, washing machine, electric toothbrush, running shoes, toaster – reset ‘em all), you may need to start before dark today.

Make sure that in the morning you didn’t forget that last clock-radio by the bedside, or you’ll find yourself at the early service. Or go and find out who attends that one! And check the church kitchen for clocks that may not get set back until Christmas (crock pot, can opener, dishwasher, battery clock on wall above the stove).

Speaking of which – if you haven’t already been hearing Christmas music, you must not be working with the children’s choirs at your church. They are all deep into rehearsals for programs and worship music and Christmas Eve, which I hear is on Dec. 24 this year.

The Granville Candlelight Walking Tour kicks off the season with Sat., Dec. 1, where children will sing all around you as you walk from corner to corner through the evening.
Thursday, Dec. 6 is the annual Newark downtown “Sights & Sounds” around the churches of the historic core, with many musical offerings in preparation even now. Mark your calendars, and if your town has a special community event for the holiday season, let me know.

For the liturgically minded, the First Sunday of Advent is actually Dec. 2 this year, so the Sunday after Thanksgiving is not a headlong rush into hanging o’ the greens and starting the church calendar (the first Sunday of Advent begins the new lectionary cycle, among other patterns which begin here, not with the calendar year). Many clergy and lay leaders look with special warmth on those years where a “breather” falls into the calendar, and you can stay an extra day at a family gathering or some such.

But for the very, very liturgical, this is “Christ the King Sunday,” as the grand wrap-up of the ending cycle of the church calendar, with the role of Christ Jesus as cosmic redeemer, enthroned in the heavens, highlighted in the songs and readings. That can clear our heads and hearts from cornucopias and turkey feathers from construction paper, putting us in a receptive frame of spirit for the day by day approach to a savior born in a stable.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him about your community Thanksgiving service coming up in a few weeks at

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

As the cycles swing back south, not to return for another 15 years to the main alignment at the Octagon Earthworks, a last time-lapse photo of this awesome phenomena from the night of Oct. 29th. Thanks, Tim, for the careful work over a looooong evening . . .
[click on image for a larger picture]

Monday, October 29, 2007

Notes From My Knapsack 11-4-07
Jeff Gill

Connections Hanging By a Thread

What does voting this Tuesday, with a lever, a punch through card-stock, or a touch on a television screen, have to do with the governing of our county?

Does the simple act of voting, with our limited knowledge as individuals and the unpredictability of human nature, actually mean much of anything to the choices our elected officials make? Or does election day just anoint one over the other on a basis perilously close to drawing straws?

Last week I was walking across the long lawns of a local soccer field, where the morning fog was melting off a wide stretch of grass still green. The nearest trees were a hundred yards and more away, and the only objects waiting for our arrival were a number of eight foot high goal cages, with a mesh net of woven twine hanging across the back and sides.

Even twenty feet to one side, as I walked past each soccer goal, I would feel the light, lengthy swipe of spider web stretch and snap across my face. A tall man, I’m used to getting those strands across my face and caught in my hair when walking forest trails, but rambling over a broad lawn is not where I expected to smack into spider web.

So I looked around for an anchoring point, and quickly realized that the spiders would logically enough clamber to the top of the goal, ready to cast their line far across the Midwestern plains. With a slow, steady breeze, they would unlimber many yards of webbing, hoping to snarl in a distant tree where the would walk, highwire fashion, over into a new world.

Or even more amazingly, they may have clambered up one of the riverside sycamores a hundred yards away, and attaching to a high branch, launched themselves out into the void, spinning a strand behind them, the gossamer thread billowing in the carefully calculated (but never predictable) breeze, until the long low arc intersected with the metal bar to my left.

Looking up to trace the possible sources for these weblines, I saw in the sky extended plumes with a feathery uplift at one end. These cirrus clouds, tens of thousands of feet in the air, were puffs of ice crystals caught up in the high blasts of the leading edge of an air system, ghostly trumpet heralds of weather to come tomorrow. That night I would see the circular rainbow around a full moon, made by the refraction of those ice crystals now spread across the sky more evenly, bending the reflection of the sun’s shine off the round moon into a circle of dim but distinct spectral colors.

The next day I took a walk in the light rain that fell from overcast skies, a result neatly predicted by the cirrus of yesterday morning stretching above the spiderweb. Up the road from me is the field that embraces a small woodlot where a house built in 1810 once stood. Paralleling the rows of corn, is a line that separates a modern development, in what was once a farm field, from where crops are still planted and harvested.

From back when that work was more by hand and closer to the ground, that line on closer inspection is a wall, or at least the remnants of a wall. Laid of field stone, slabs of sandstone, there are still about six courses worth of rock, stretching for over a hundred yards and surely once even longer, on to the side of the next hill. Overgrown with Virginia creeper and poison ivy, the wall is nearly invisible until you’re right on it.

Once you see it, though, you can’t help but think about how 200 years ago these stones were taken from freshly plowed fields, one by one, and carried over to slowly build this wall. How tall once was it? Hard to tell.

Webs and clouds and walls and lines of connection and separation – and votes. We connect ourselves to the process of government, and connect that process to ourselves when we choose to step aside from the everyday and wait in line, cast our vote, and cast our voice out into the electorate. It is a thin strand, to be sure, that connects us to great affairs, but a little more substantial if low to the ground when we vote on our local officials and levies.

Tuesday morning, 6:30 am sharp, the officials and judges and your neighbors will be waiting and ready. Connect yourself to the work of government, and while you’re at it, enjoy the fall as you walk away from the polling place. You’ve earned it!

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