Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Faith Works 2-16-08
Jeff Gill

Clergy Calendars Askew

This year Easter is really right up in our faces and calendars. Barring major developments in human longevity, none of us alive today will see the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Jesus come this early again -- we’re talking 2160.

The last time we had a March 23 Easter was 1913, which few of us recall. It can also come as early as March 22, but so rarely “we” won’t see that until 2285.

So Ash Wednesday and Mardi Gras before and Lent that follows after are all way too early from what we’re used to. The idea is that after Easter there’s a bit more slack in the schedule before graduations and summer programs start to press in, though that may be a concept more than a reality.

A number of special training programs for church staff and leaders are wisely aiming for the season after Easter, and I plan on letting y’all know about them in good order.

One that I’m particularly impressed by is organized through “The Kids’ Team of Licking County.” The Kids’ Team is a group of community professionals who work with the results of child abuse and neglect, and sadly they have plenty of work to do.

This team, including folks like Ken Oswalt, our county prosecutor, and staff from Children’s Services in the Dept. of Job and Family Services, is putting together an educational training seminar on how clergy and church staff should handle identification and reporting of child abuse and neglect.

They’re offering two dates for pastors to choose from, and you can just pick the one that fits best in your schedule. The first training will be held on Wednesday, April 9th, at 9:30am at the First Methodist Church located at 88 N. 5th St in Newark, and the second will be held on Tuesday, April 22nd at 7pm at the Jersey Baptist Church located at 13260 Morse Road, Pataskala. Their goal for this training is “to help you better understand your role in this process of suspected child abuse or neglect and offer support and information on what to do when you suspect such situation. We are aware that making a report is often a complex task. Not only is it difficult to know when to report, it is equally as difficult to deal with the aftermath when families are in crisis.”

This well-timed training opportunity is open to all clergy in the Licking County area, as well as youth pastors, classroom teachers, or child care staff associated with your church. This training is offered at no cost to you or your staff, and every church in the county will soon get a letter with more info, or you can call at 740-670-8914 for reservations by Friday, April 4th.

Not to discourage you from marking this right now on your calendar, but I not only plan to attend, I’ll be helping deliver some of the content at these training events at the invitation of the Kids’ Team. I’m often responsible for sharing this kind of material for fellow counselors and camp directors in church camp settings, and work closely with the Scouting program along these same lines, called “Youth Protection Training.”

They don’t teach you much about this in seminary, if at all, and dealing with child abuse is a bad place to learn by experience.

While many are aware of stories that have been in the media over the last few years about clergy and church staff involved inappropriately with children, less well known is how often pastors and church leaders have helped to end situations of molestation and abuse, and lead families to the full range of healing assistance available in our community.

Suffering in silence and solitude is not necessary, but too many think it is the only path available. Attending this training event can give your church a road map for getting where you really want to be going in the first place, even if a detour suddenly blocked the way ahead for your youth ministry.

God has a way of showing up along detours, y’know.

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

Sunday, February 10, 2008

[Scroll down if you're looking for the pictures from the "A Christmas Story" house!]

Notes From My Knapsack 2-17-08
Jeff Gill

The Man Who Would Not Be King

George Washington fought against King and Country, from the point of view of George the Third of Great Britain.

The House of Hanover’s hapless heirs had helped many like Washington see the hopelessness of reaching a negotiated democratic settlement with an hereditary monarchy.

Lord North didn’t help much, either.

Next year about this time the main attention will rightly go towards Honest Abe, as Lincoln’s 200th birthday will come February 12, 2009. (And that same day, Charles Darwin, for those of you completing your set of historical coincidences!)

What has picked up the unofficial name “Presidents’ Day” comes from the coincidence of Lincoln’s Feb. 12 birthdate and Washington’s Feb. 22, which just to make matters worse, or more interesting for real history geeks, is Feb. 11, because he was born 276 years ago, before the British Empire adopted the full Gregorian system of keeping a calendar, shifting dates forward by eleven days. Anyhow.

(And Black History Month comes from the conjunction of Lincoln’s and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays in what was first called by Carter Woodson “Black History Week.” Anyhow.)

But the federal holiday we observe tomorrow is, in fact, “Washington’s Birthday,” and Millard Fillmore and Richard Nixon will have to look elsewhere for their day in the sun.

Why this focus on one individual?

When King George III was told in 1783 that Washington declined further power and wanted only to return to his farm, he declared, "If Washington does that, he will be the greatest man in the world." For once, King George III may have been right.

George Washington was repeatedly asked to become monarch of the new nation he helped bring into existence as commander of the Continental Army, especially by folks like Alexander Hamilton who thought they stood a chance of being named George’s heir (Washington had no children.) It was only with great reluctance he allowed himself to be elected President, and more so for a second term, where he drew a line, and rode home to Mount Vernon. For this Lord Byron picked up on his ruler’s earlier comment, and on the end of Washington’s political career called him the “Cincinnatus of the West,” echoing a figure from the classic period of the Roman republic who voluntarily gave up power, and accidentally named an Ohio city some years later.

In light of the example and role of “the man who would not be king,” Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News editorial board asks on his blog: “Which ten American historical figures would you cite that would give a high school student a decent, if incomplete, grounding in American history? The question is not about the Ten Most Important Americans, though certainly the lists could overlap. Think hard about this. Think about the lives Americans have lived since the colonial times, and come up with ten reasonably well-known people whose biographies convey something essential about the American character and experience.”

With the added qualification of “Presidents excluded,” Rod has picked up a bunch of suggested lists that often go something like this: “Muhammad Ali, John Wayne, George S. Patton, Neil Armstrong, Mark Twain, William Randolph Hearst, Robert E. Lee, Alexander Hamilton, Davy Crockett, and a combo pick, Sitting Bull/Geronimo/Crazy Horse.”

A woman, reading a series of lists of ten with all men, suggested this list: “Abigail Adams, Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Elizabeth Blackwell, Margaret Sanger, Mother Jones, Mary McLeod Bethune, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jacqueline Cochran, Margaret Chase Smith.”

Go to and search for “Ten Names” to see quite a slew of suggestions along these lines, but actually almost any of them would create an interesting framework for teaching the outline of American history through the lens of lives such as these.

But whatever list you might most prefer, there’s no such roster that would be as complete or effective without George Washington’s presence. Monday, enjoy a pancake, his favorite food, and salute him in your own way.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he’s tried the Mount Vernon recipe for “hoecakes” and will stick with Bisquick. Send him your historic recipes at