Friday, August 17, 2012

Faith Works 8-18

Faith Works 8-18-12
Jeff Gill

Yesterday and Last Sunday (on a personal note)

At Friday's Licking County Prayer Partner's breakfast featuring Tony Campolo (see Lois Whyde's story for details), there was a moment, as there has been for the some twenty years they've been holding these, when they ask pastors to stand up. It's to thank them for their service, and to remind us all to pray for those in congregational leadership as preaching and teaching servants.

For the last seven years, I've not stood up then. I consider myself to be an ordained minister and have the piece of paper and the sharp, clear, delightful memories of my ordination to prove it, but that time seemed to me to be focused on those serving at table and pulpit, in homes and hospitals, as parish clergy. I've been involved in church life and leadership, but not as a serving pastor.

Friday, I stood up.

Last Sunday was Aug. 12. That's the commemoration of the passing of William Blake, and I'm sure some other more globally significant events happened on Aug. 12. For me, it's a meaningful day before this year because in 1979, my Eagle Scout award was pinned on me by my mother, with both grandmothers present, my dad at my side. It's one of very few memories I have of the two grandmothers together, just because of geography and circumstance; my paternal grandfather died the year before I was born, and my maternal grandfather had passed almost a decade before.

But Aug. 12, 1979, in the sanctuary of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the church where I made my confession of faith and where I was baptized, the Boy Scout troop they sponsored held my Eagle Court of Honor, and I received the award I had earned through two dozen merit badges, many campouts, some youth leadership roles, and a service project. My Eagle service project took me to meetings of our county commissioners and city council, where I learned a citizen, even at 16, could ask for a hearing and impact policy. I met the sheriff and the head of the county roads departments and I saw the realities behind the civics class discussions. All of that work, along with the knots and fire building skills, has stayed with me in a useful and personally meaningful way ever since.

Ten years to the day after that, now married, both grandmothers gone, but my parents and even more family and friends gathered around, I stood a few dozen feet west: the sanctuary was condemned, and slated for demolition in a few weeks. Age and unintended damage from well-meant repairs in the 1950s meant this 1888 building would soon be no more. But there was the date, and the opportunity to hold my ordination service, after my seminary graduation, on Aug. 12th.

The platform party, without the permission of the city engineer or the church insurance carrier, snuck into the shadowed sanctuary for what was, for me, a last time. We prayed together there, then quietly left by a rear door and processed into a large tent filled with Scouts in uniform, older folks in suits and dresses, kids in shorts and t-shirts running around as the CWF ladies tried to keep them out of the cake with a large Disciples' chalice on it in the back. Joyce and a friend sang, we held the service, and with the laying on of hands including my 4th grade teacher, friends from seminary, pastors from all around the area of many denominations, and my dad -- there, on the grass, I was ordained. On Aug. 12.

So after preaching for the summer at Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) here in Newark, where I served from 1989 to 1993 as the associate pastor, and as plans were confirmed for me to succeed Rev. Rick Rintamaa who had retired with Memorial Day weekend, there were discussions of when the congregation could hold a meeting and vote to confirm me as their call for senior pastor. It bounced around from July to after Labor Day.

Then Rick Hayden, board chair, e-mailed me one night and said "It looks like the best date for all the leadership will be Aug. 12 - is that date OK with you?"

You know my answer, and you've doubtless guessed the result of the vote. I'll still write this column, aimed broadly at those who find faith interesting, but are still skeptical about this whole church thing. I'll still read and answer (maybe more slowly) your e-mails, and see this as a separate, but still important ministry.

But I'll have to stop calling myself a supply preacher!

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in central Ohio; he's ended a seven year sabbatical from parish ministry! Contact him at or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

No comments:

Post a Comment