Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Knapsack 12-1

Notes From My Knapsack 12-1-11

Jeff Gill


A December to remember



The candlelight walking tour is upon us!


Some leave town, some just lock their doors and settle in with a stack of movies (or stream a night's worth through their widget), and the rest of us embrace the insanity with open arms.


C'mon, we all know it's insane. The kids most of all, and bless 'em, they aren't yet sold on the value of sanity and sensibility, so they are most ready to run forward with arms open wide.


They glory in the red-suited fellow and his soft-spoken wife, elves on duty all around; they run to the kettle corn copper pot and the cocoa urn; they try to be more restrained in Monomoy House, but even the Lad still loves to count the number of Christmas trees and report back the census to President Knobel.


Older youth get to walk about more dignifiedly with candle-lighters to keep the luminaries burning, or shuttle cookies from inside to outdoor tables; many of this community's young people put their talents to good work in church chancels and other performance venues, with plays and recitals and concerts from the elementary school's daytime craft fair on the east side of the village, to Pilgrim Lutheran and the Newark High School strings in the evening where Cherry St. points to Broad Street and the west.


Everyone gets to share their talents; my afternoon challenge is that my friend Mary Borgia is singing & strumming at the United Church of Granville in the afternoon while the Lovely Wife is playing at the Robbins Hunter Museum (sorry, Mary!). Andy Carlson and some bluegrass desperados will be holding up Park National Bank, even as Spring Hills Baptist's musicians will be trying to make connections with passing audiences in Windstream Park.


And the hardest choice of all: St. Luke's Episcopal offers a sing-along "Messiah" at 8:00 pm, just when the Denison University Concert Choir performs atop College Hill in Swasey Chapel.


There are certain family traditions about where to go and what to do, but they can't be set in stone. Monomoy is only open every other year, certain groups in various churches come and go, and through the years there are new, changing responsibilities (setting out those luminaries, helping erect sets at Centenary, shoveling snow in front of the Avery-Downer House). We used to always start the evening, just before Santa & Mrs. Claus' arrival, with Don Snelling making the Lad a grilled cheese – times change, people pass, memories endure.


There's the walk through the Christmas lights behind the Buxton Inn, and the admiration of ice sculptures in front of the Granville Inn (weather permitting, of course). I see that the Soup Loft will have bean soup & cornbread: a new tradition, perhaps?


We can't dawdle, because Common Thread is starting down the street, and we might just get them in before the "Hallelujah Chorus." As I will always remember, thinking of the Granville Candlelight Walking Tour, the sound of a child's voice that might be my own, but is just as likely to be someone else's son or daughter:


"C'mon, let's go!"


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him your walking tour tale at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Faith Works 11-26

Faith Works 11-26-11

Jeff Gill


Think faithfully, shop locally



Tomorrow is the First Sunday in Advent.


There are probably more people in general (if not reading this) who are aware that yesterday was "Black Friday" than know what the First Sunday in Advent is, or means.


A new liturgical year begins, and the lectionary cycle of Scripture readings turns; we'll now be in Year B, with a special emphasis through the year on the Gospel of Mark (A=Matthew, C=Luke, and John gets heavy rotation in special seasons like Easter, but not his own year in the cycle).


I've talked about Advent before, but not so much about Black Friday. Not that I really want to do that now.


There is a small push on to declare today "Small Business Saturday," It's an interesting idea, with some major retail interests behind it, ironically, but the concept has more than just merit.


Some would suggest that a truly faithful, and particularly Christian few should be to consume, to shop, to buy stuff less. I think there's something worth considering there; why would committed Christians buy consumer goods in volume and type and brand indistinguishably from the community around them? Not to be different for difference's sake, but if your faith commitment doesn't change your shopping habits, I think it might be fair for an outsider to wonder: what does it change, then?


You can also take this line of reflection too far. Some claim that Christmas shopping and gift-giving is "the problem," and a kind of neo-Amish retreat from commercial society is what our beliefs should lead us to.


Consumer society can be a big, big part of "the problem" (my departure from most such rants is that the problem is "sin" and not shopping isn't "redemption," but save that for later). How we shop, though, might also be part of a solution to finding a form of faithful living that proclaims what we believe.


I find a small business emphasis, not just for today, but in general, one that appeals to my understanding of "the beloved community," the new creation that God is seeking through Christ not just "in our hearts" but in our shared reality, right now. A sign of the Kingdom, if you like.


Giving gifts can be a blessing, and where or how you get them can bless in multiple directions. Everyone knows there's a certain wonderment in handmade gifts.


And many of us quake in fear and trembling at the idea of crafting anything at all.


Do we have to jump from home-made offerings to objects, entombed in plastic, shipped from overseas, bought in big box stores? Is there no middle ground here?


Buying locally is an affirmation of community, of common ties. Even buying internationally rooted consumer goods from a local, nearby retailer, says something if only to that business and their employees with whom you interact.


I wonder what would happen if, as part of the Christmas season, more churches spent a moment or some bulletin or newsletter space to promote, not as an advertisement, but as a gift itself, those in their fellowship who make gift items? What I'm not so crazy about are so-called "Christian businesses," in whose name I've seen too much incompetence and opportunistic profit taking be done. What I mean is a purchase that has some relationship in it. A local artist's CD, jewelry made by LICCO, preserves from the farm just a township over.


There's also the next circle of connection, where faith & practice mean not an endorsement, but just a gracious hint. My wife & I give a number of out-of-town gifts through Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, a Trappist monastery whose emphasis on prayer & work I value, and whose products are handmade on the grounds. There may be better fruitcakes, but not only do I think they're tasty, I like what the gift says, and what I'm supporting by giving through them.


So shop as you discern that you must, and wrap away for the celebrations of month's end, but think a bit about from whom, and where, and how you buy – and see what you can do to bring the gift a little closer to the life and living you would affirm.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; yes, he does like fruitcake, some do! Tell him about a Christmas gift at knapsack77@gmail.com or follow Knapsack @Twitter.