Friday, September 09, 2011

Knapsack 9-15

Knapsack 9-15-11

Jeff Gill


Steps to nowhere, or from somewhere



We laid Robert Thomas to rest a few weeks ago at Centenary.


He was a pillar of the earliest, the 8 am service, and his family is woven back into the history of the village.


Pastor Steve noted that his first visits with Bob and his mother was at their home just past Tannery Hill, one door east of Minnie Hite Moody's house. The Thomas home wasn't built in 1809 with foundation stones from Alligator Mound a thousand years old, but it was where his father practiced the veterinary arts for what seems like most of the last century.


Dr. Thomas is gone, his wife died with her son living there so she could stay at home to the end, then it was torn down as the westernmost part of what became the St. Edward's property. Only the steps up from the sidewalk and a bit of wall remain, but you can see right where the Thomas home and barn beyond once were.


A common refrain at a few recent memorial services I've attended (or presided at) has been the passing of an era, the loss of what once was. "Old Granville" is going and New Granville is hurtling down the newly widened expressway.


Perhaps. There are new faces at parent meetings, or filing variances with the Board of Zoning and Building Appeals, where I realize with shock that I'm now the second most senior member of the panel, even though I feel like the rankest newcomer.


Having a historian's ear, I pick up stories, and being a storyteller at heart, I like to tell them. No doubt I change them a bit, rounding the corners as most talespinners do, and occasionally filing off the serial numbers like a thief (names changed to protect the guilty, and all that).


What I've noticed, though, as I tell my stories, is that those of the Old Granville often start with entering the village as a newcomer: cresting the hill south of town on Rt. 37 and seeing the Swasey steeple for the first time, riding across Clear Run in an ox cart from the east, skirting the valley of Raccoon Creek on horseback.


We all came here, except the Native people, and even there we tell the story of a fluted point 10,000 years old, found below a mound on the edge of today's city limits, a connection to those heroic first explorers, the Indian hunters gently walking across the land in search of mastodon and mammoth, walking the retreating glacier's edge on their epic journey from Asia into a New World from the west.


Today the newest arrivals are likely to come from the west, whether in a taxi from Port Columbus or with a moving van down Rt. 661 or whatever number we're putting on that road for now.


The old, old story of Granville is of an endless parade of new arrivals, and the ones who got here first waiting along Broadway to tell them where the class lists are posted, which flavor of frozen custard is best, or why there's three steps up from the sidewalk into a patch of grass east of town.


Look out, you'll soon be an oldtimer yourself if you're not careful; crackerbarrel and pipe optional.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him an old-time tale at, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.

Faith Works 9-10

Faith Works 9-10-11

Jeff Gill


Remembering a Day Like No Other



Tomorrow the tenth anniversary of 9-11 falls on a Sunday, and doubtless many churches will include moments of remembrance and prayer looking back on that day.


Later in the day, Sunday afternoon at 4:00 pm, a block east of Courthouse Square, Trinity Episcopal Church will host what's sometimes called a "Blue Mass," a memorial liturgy based on the burial service and communion celebration of The Episcopal Church's "Book of Common Prayer." It is open to the public, but is especially intended for members of the police and fire services, and their family members.


Part of the worship and commemoration is a combined choir, including not only folks from Trinity but also out of St. James Episcopal in Zanesville, St. John's Episcopal from Lancaster, and First Methodist Church here in Newark.


If you are looking for an interfaith prayer service, the Ohio Council of Churches and the Interfaith Association of Central Ohio are convening a gathering in the Statehouse Atrium also at 4:00 pm on Sunday in Columbus. Muslim, Jewish, and Christian groups will participate.


Another combined chorus will lift up a Community Service of Remembrance at 7:00 pm in Swasey Chapel of Denison University, in Granville. Faure's "Requiem" will provide the basic structure for the time of memory and prayer, with 60 community members ready to work together to provide a solemn, yet hopeful note to close the tenth anniversary day.


The performance of the choral work will end with prayers for peace from a number of world religions, and a time for reflection in silence, focused on service to others…a point of unity among the religious traditions of the world.


We come to this point, this grim anniversary, with politics and conflict echoing around the world and causing all of us, I think, to crave some silence along with a few well chosen words. Some say it's been only an escalation of hostility and violence since that terror-stained day, and they grieve the world that was lost.


I believe we should grieve those who died at the hands of vicious criminals, and honor those who ran towards the smoke and flames to serve others, but my grief for the world of September 10th is fairly limited.


I do not believe God, not the God I worship, wanted 9-11 to happen, or needed it to occur to bring something better out of it. What I do believe God does is work through our pain and our suffering, using the bent nails that we would toss aside to build something better…and when we smash that, God patiently stoops to pick up the pieces and invite us to build again. I believe in miracles, but I also believe that God has chosen some fairly strict criteria in self-limitation for when those may happen, for reasons that are both beyond me, but also make more sense with every passing year.


I know when there are times that I'd like to be able to call on what I might call "supranatural" intervention, God does not respond as I would like. When people jump from flames and suffocating smoke, into a hurtling abyss. When priests ministering to the dying are struck by collapsing steel, killing them as well. When you know, you just know there are stairwells being climbed by gasping men in turnout gear, climbing up, as you watch on TV when the towers fall.


When friends lose their only remaining child to cancer,;when age takes memory and mind and leaves only motion without meaning; when parents turn away from their own children right in front of me, and cannot be convinced to try again to love.


If I were God, I would do things differently, or so I'm saying when I wish things were so. Yet I wonder at what I do not know, or understand, and then I see . . .


That they did run up those stairs, knowing what could, would happen; that arms carried those whose legs had given out beyond the ring of debris; that thousands dug through "the pile" long after any survivor might remain buried; that love shone forth in startling ways like the lights which shone up over Manhattan in earlier remembrances. Reaching towards the sky, into the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.


There's still so much sin and brokenness in the world, and I wish God would wipe that away, too, but then what would be left? We again pick up the pieces, and in so doing start to heal our broken hearts.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him a story of light shining in the darkness at, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.