Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Faith Works 12-01-07
Jeff Gill

Relational Giving? What’s That?

Let me commend to you, this first weekend of Advent, a website for the Advent Conspiracy, which is simply

They are an eclectic clump of Christian groups with a passion for something called “relational giving,” which you can read about in brief or at length at the website, but is an approach for reducing consumerism and refocusing on mission during the Christmas season.

One element of relational giving is giving people a note of appreciation that includes that you’ve given a gift to an organization whose work is in line with the ideals you and the recipient share. The Lovely Wife and I usually do this aligned with the Licking County Coalition for Housing and The Salvation Army, but part of the point is for you to prayerfully discern which gifts are right for you and the person on the other end.

Jim Wallis is an evangelical pastor who would doubtless like pretty much everything about Advent Conspiracy. He is one of the founders of the “Sojourners” community, editor of their award-winning magazine (see, and recently wrote “God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It.”

This nationally recognized preacher and teacher will be offering the ordination sermon for Ohio’s first state organizer for Sojourners’ activism arm, “Call To Renewal,” whose mission is “to articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world.”

The woman taking on this daunting challenge is Virginia Lohmann Bauman, and from a background in law and a degree from Denison and Newark Catholic before that, she will move into ordained ministry with an ordination service on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007 at 7pm at First Baptist Church of Granville.

Gini says “although ordinations tend to be more private church affairs, we have decided to extend an invitation to the wider faith community to attend the ordination due to Jim Wallis' involvement in the event. It is quite extraordinary for him to be available to speak in our local community.”

I certainly plan to come hear Wallis preach, and welcome another laborer into the vineyard.

If you just have to buy stuff for some folks this Christmas, or were looking for an ordination present for Gini, you might want to check out for a place to look for “fair trade” gifts that contribute to environmental sustainability. People like Nancy Ortberg, one of Willow Creek’s teaching pastors, and Brian McLaren, author of “Everything Must Change,” are part of a Christian initiative to honor the oneness of creation, and to practice our responsibility as stewards for the integrity of both the Gospel and “the least of these, my brothers.”

And since we’ve lifted up three Christian oriented efforts to make this season a bit more outwardly focused, let me offer a shout-out to consistent commenter on our on-line forums, Gary from Lancaster! The Humanist Community of Central Ohio has a website at, where if you click on the “Community Service” link you’ll see their own efforts to join together to reduce suffering and build community connections.

Atheists and humanists (they aren’t always the same thing, remember) have their own reasons for caring about the world beyond their own lives, even if they don’t think those lives have continuing meaning. I’ll work with just about anyone with shared goals, and not just because it gives me a chance to share the vision behind my take on those goals while we labor together!

The “holiday season,” as folks navigate how and when to wish “Merry Christmas,” or learn who responds with a cheery “Happy Hanukkah,” can be a good time to learn about friends and co-workers faith perspectives. If you want to share your views with someone around you, the key is this: you have to listen to theirs first.

Really listen, and not just for holes in their story. Listen, and appreciate, and you’ll very likely be invited to share your story.

Which is where I Peter 3:15 comes in.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; as a Christian, he’s preached for Unitarians and Jews when the invitations arose (the Atheists haven’t called yet, but there’s always hope!). Invite him to tell your faith community’s story here at

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Notes From My Knapsack 12-02-07
Jeff Gill

You Will Be Festive, Or Else!

Licking County is mustering her best resources to put holiday cheer front and center as December begins.

This column is just going to continue for one more week helping get the word out, about worthwhile and wonderful seasonal events. Many are free, and most that have a fee direct that to groups like the Licking County Food Pantry Network – and don’t forget the Elves in Action by the Gazebo on Courthouse Square for that cause!

Handel’s “Messiah” echoes from the historic walls of Second Presbyterian Church on Sunday evening, Dec. 2, at 7:00 pm, with their choir along with those of First United Methodist Church and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, guided together by Jeanette Muzzalupo and Rick Black. There will be a reception afterwards.

If you’d like a second look at Second Pres, they’re one of the eight downtown sanctuaries on display for the Newark “Sights and Sounds of Christmas” on Thursday night, Dec. 6, starting at 6:00 pm. The full details can be found at their website, Eight years makes this a well rooted tradition, supporting the Food Pantry Network, of course.

Licking Valley High School will offer a Christmas Concert by their Band and Choir programs that Thursday night, at 7:00 pm, in the HS auditorium. Their jazz and concert ensembles will include seasonal favorites along with a few unexpected surprises, and the drive out through “The Valley” will no doubt make it even more worth the trip, seeing the Christmas lights along the hillsides, and the many banners celebrating their state champio. . . oh, I can’t say that yet? Sorry. We’ll say more about that later, then!

Then Friday night, Dec. 7, Dawes Arboretum lights up their grounds with luminaries around the Daweswood House loop; from 5:30 to 8 pm you can enjoy the beauty for two cans of food or $5 for the . . . yes, the LCFPN. You’re catching on!

Park National Bank and Time-Warner is helping to get enough bodies out to place the hundreds, thousands maybe, of carefully placed sacks, and light their candles at the proper time. Sounds a little risky, weather-wise? Well, they have good fortune in the past with this, but Saturday Dec. 8 is the “rain date.”

We hope they won’t use that, because the Newark High School Concert Choir and Chamber Orchestra is presenting Vivaldi’s “Gloria!” at Second Pres that night at 7:00 pm.

And before everyone leaves College Hill in Granville for the holiday break, the Denison University Office of Religious Life and the Dept. of Music will open wide the vast doors of Swasey Chapel for a “Service of Lessons and Carols.” Open to the community for the Sunday, Dec. 9 service at 7:00 pm, the program is directed by Mark Orten, chaplain, and Kevin Wines, liturgist and conductor.

If you just catch half of those opportunities, not only will you know more about your community, you will have helped make it a better place for all of us to live, and you’ll be feeling downright festive. Or else!

Or else what? Well, take a kid with you down to Courthouse Square in Newark, and some cans of soup or tinned meat or jars of peanut butter, then drive around the square a few times.

Ease over to your left past the Wendy’s and the old man handing out candy bars in front of the county building, and slide up to the gaggle of elves. Give the sack of food to the child in the car, and let them give the items to the friends of the food pantry on duty.
Watch the kid’s eyes, and that’s what else. You might just see reflected in their eyes the reason for the season.

Look close, and listen well, and rejoice.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; if you wonder why your group’s special event isn’t in this column, you need to send it to him (with a couple weeks leadtime!) at