Thursday, July 31, 2008

Faith Works 8-2-08
Jeff Gill

Creeping Bentgrass In the Sanctuary

If your religious tradition has roots in Scotland, creeping bentgrass may belong in your churchyard.

If your churchyard is a tee box or putting green, it may already be there.

Golf and churchgoing are usually seen as opponents; as a wandering preacher, I know I’ll drive by a wide variety of golf courses on a Sunday morning and see a pretty busy scene.

For those who say “I can worship God on a fairway out in nature better than I can in a church building,” I respond quickly that you absolutely, positively can.

Do you?

That’s the question. Not can you, because John McCain could worship God in the Hanoi Hilton and Barack Obama found God in his questions while walking the hard streets of Chicago’s South Side. Yes, you can (if I can borrow that line).

Do you?

The Licking County Coalition for Housing (LCCH) needs to raise local money as a match for the federal and state funds which help us house families and individuals working from crisis back to stability. Every local dollar we gather picks up many dollars, sometimes as many as 20, from beyond our county, in this kind of matching support.

So a simple golf event has a major impact. Their 4th Annual LCCH Golf Outing is on Saturday, August 23rd, at the Raccoon International Golf Course on Rt. 16 east of Granville.

They have fun for foursomes, with a “Scramble/Shotgun Start” at 8:00 am, and a “Hole in One Contest” bringing the grand prize of a trip to Las Vegas. If this is your kind of fun and service wrapped up into a tidy Saturday morning package, then click to download & print a registration form, or call 345-1970.

If golf can be a way to help the needy in our midst, can it be a means of grace for the participants? Isn’t the open air, the clear boundaries, a sense of endings and accountability, all the way many can catch a glimpse of the Divine?

Sure. If they do.

I’m not the best analyst for this question, having never played golf. If you don’t count the blacklight miniature version. But as I said last week, there are many ways churches and faith communities can reach out and engage people, and if Biker Sunday and Geek Week count for evangelism, then golf outings surely make an opportunity for sharing Good News.

Where this all falls apart for many is the fact that what’s really being argued is “I don’t have to do anything to be in touch with God, since God isn’t in touch with me.” Much Sunday golf has more to do with “thank, um, God that there’s at least one day I don’t have to check e-mail” than “this is the day set apart for me to explore my relationship to a deeper reality and broader understanding than I can come to on my own.”

I can imagine “golf spirituality,” and I’m not being sarcastic at all. I really can. I’ve just never seen it in action over the long haul, so I don’t think it makes a basis for a faith community per se. What I do appreciate is the passion of golfers who want to set some time aside, like (for instance) Aug. 23, to enjoy their favorite sport and each other’s competitive company while also helping people less fortunate than themselves.

And many of them do, in fact, have a place they go on Sunday morning or Saturday evening (and one on Friday night) to join a fellowship with a wider sense of faith than just “I believe I can get a hole in one.”

Any of them might just have a moment, when they think about how blessed they are to have a home to go to after the 18th hole, to marvel at creation and their place in it. Or just a flash of delight at the complex weaving of roots and narrow leaves that makes the marvelous surface that is a green, carpeted with creeping bentgrass. Compared to bentgrass, what am I?

In Licking County, there are plenty of places to go and work on that question, some of which you pass on the way to the clubhouse. Stop by and tee up!

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he is also board chair for the Licking County Coalition for Housing. Tell him about your tee-time epiphany at