Friday, June 06, 2008

Notes From My Knapsack 6-8-08
Jeff Gill

Six and a half years ago, about 340 weekly columns before this one alongside a smattering of cover stories and stray features, I got a chance to write for the Booster.

Maybe it was “The Community Booster” then, or we should say “Booster Snapshots” now, or you may just say “that free weekly thing the Advocate folks put out,” but it’s part of the long, proud history of print journalism in Licking County.

The Advocate is the oldest continuously operating business in Licking County, starting in 1820. They get the nod for printing under the same name, even as owners and editors have changed (kind of like an inn, come to think of it, but while The Buxton Inn’s building goes back straight to 1812, they’ve had a few different names through the centuries).

Benjamin Briggs was a young man in an unprepossessing town when he printed the first issues in 1820; the Advocate has seen many competitors over the years come and go, buying and being bought by some of those business concerns.

The Newspaper Network of Central Ohio is part of the larger Gannett Corporation, of which “USA Today” is our cousin. They are diversifying out into various print and online media formats, which means new opportunities for some . . .

. . . and endings for others. This is, I’m told, the last “Booster” (however you dress up the name, “Booster” has been good enough for most purposes). You’ll still see “The Advertiser” showing up in bags and bunches hither and yon, as our free weekly for a now multi-county area, with news highlights from our “Advocate” colleagues.

“The Granville Sentinel” was a competitor through the 1970’s and 80’s with “The Granville Booster,” both weeklies in the shadow of the legendary “Granville Times” and all the way back to Sereno Wright’s “The Wanderer” that rose up to dispute Newark’s upstart newspaper in 1822. (Sereno was a printer from Vermont who had put out a “Weekly Wanderer” back East from 1801 to 1811, so the printer’s ink runs deep in Licking County veins, back to the auld sod.)

I’m delighted to say that “Notes From My Knapsack” will have some kind of regular place in the pages of the “Sentinel,” where the Op-Ed pages host a distinguished company of columnists, like Bill Nichols and Scottie Cochrane’s husband, plus a guy who’s always right.

This, I cannot claim.

So the torrent of verbiage will be diverted, but not stilled. Many of you have been kind enough to share your corrections, dissentions, and disputations with me by e-mail and in person on sidewalks and buffet lines all over Licking County, and I truly have been enriched by those interactions. My best hope is that between the “Sentinel” and my weekly “Faith Works” column in the Saturday Advocate, and perhaps even preaching or telling a story in your neck of the woods, we’ll all stay in touch.

Friends, it has been a pleasure.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; you can still tell him a story at, and who knows where it will come out, but it’s all grist for the mill, which still turns.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Faith Works 6-7-08
Jeff Gill

VBS Is Better Than CBS, NBC, & ABC Put Together!

School’s out for the Little Guy, so we were walking down the street on a sunny weekday morning when a blimp flew overhead, going opposite our direction.

We stopped to crane our necks and watch (he’s 10, so not too awful long), and marvel at the size and delicacy of the huge oval shape sliding almost silently past us.

Then we went on to climb Sugarloaf in Granville with a hundred of our closest friends!

This rain has kept kids indoors, just as we got them back from their public education calendar, and likely has quite a few of us parents at home thinking of Vacation Bible School.

VBS is one of those old traditions that is being repackaged for modern tastes, like praise worship and screen projection in worship or e-mail newsletters. There are still some traditional models rolling down the road, and different ways to do VBS right around the corner.

Starting this week, many congregations will hold a series of sessions, some in the morning, quite a few in the evening. Many will start Monday bright and early, while a few hold a registration night on Sunday. More and more you see churches hold their closing ceremony on Thursday, since so many families head away Friday after work, but others plow right through to Saturday.

In Granville, many of the downtown churches do a joint “Ecumenical VBS” which is this week, rotating locations and responsibilities and sharing the work and the joy.

(I’d drop by, but this is also the week of Cub Scout Day Camp at Camp Falling Rock, where oddly enough I’ll be . . . telling stories; they start on Tuesday, with a picnic and closing on Friday and a few of the older Cubs camping out that evening.)

Down in Buckeye Lake, Water’s Edge Ministry is offering a VBS at 11 am from Monday to Thursday for the next week, June 14 to 17. And I get to tell some stories about Joseph and his sibling rivalries at that one!

So if you’re thinking about VBS for your kids, a few friendly reminders to all. First, check the days and times, because “they way we’ve/they’ve always done it” isn’t, anymore. Just because your neighbor says “oh, I’m sure it starts tomorrow” doesn’t mean anything – drive by and look for a sign, since most churches with a VBS put one out, along with posters down at the local businesses or restaurants.

And if you are driving around the county, and think “hey, didn’t I see the same sign and theme somewhere else?” – you aren’t losing your mind! There are a number of Christian publishing companies that put together “VBS kits” with a theme each summer and includes posters and banners and all the curriculum materials, and it’s pretty common for more than one church in an area to buy the same kit.

What that doesn’t mean is that, if you’re used to having your kid go to multiple VBS’s, that it will be the same. Everyone personalizes their kit, and no two churches will use the package in quite the same way.

Finally, if you’re thinking about wanting to check out a church but don’t actually attend there, and wonder “will my child be welcome there?” The not-so-secret secret is that folks like you are a big reason behind why congregations put on Vacation Bible School. Part of the reason is to give a big boost to the kids’ chances to learn faith content and Bible teachings, but reaching out to families that haven’t decided to attend on Sundays is even bigger.

It really can be a chance to see the inside of the building dressed however you normally would on a weekday, talk to some of the members without feeling any “when do I stand up or sit down” pressure, and at the closing you’ll get a taste of the worship and teachings of that church.

The next two weeks will see ‘em sprout like mushrooms around Licking County, and often there’s another burst of ‘em at summer’s end right before school starts; but there will hardly be a week these next couple months when there isn’t a VBS in session somewhere near you.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he’s told stories at quite a few VBS’s, where you have the audience’s complete attention until someone says “Snack Time!” Tell him a story at