Friday, August 17, 2012

Knapsack 8-23

Notes From My Knapsack 8-23-12

Jeff Gill


It's time we had a talk



This is awkward.


I know this will just make us both uncomfortable, and leave me sounding like the weird one, but I feel this needs to be discussed.


It's the county name.


You know what it is. You've had relatives, when you pull your car into the drive, read the sticker on your license plate, and look at you with an arched eybrow: Really?


Yes, that's the county name, you reply, perhaps adding "it's because of salt licks that used to attract animals that the Indians and pioneers hunted."


I wrote in these pages not long ago that my study of the earliest mentions of the Licking River seems to point us to Spring Valley here in Granville, and Salt Run, with prehistoric mounds near some very early historic earthworks that are all that's left of a salt works, trying to extract and dry some of this precious commodity that otherwise would have to be purchased with the cash money that was in such short supply in the earliest decades of the 1800s.


Bob Neinast, aka "Barefoot Bob" (long story, but you can find his blog online; he likes to hike all over in his barefeet) told me, as we walked with a group a few weeks back around the circuit of the Newark Earthworks, that his research had made him lean towards "Licking" being derived from the Lenape (Delaware) language, as Hock-hocking meant "bottle-shaped" (actually gourd-shaped) which gave rise to the Hocking River.


His argument is that a Lenape word for "sandy, gravelly bottomed river" would have easily transformed into "Licking" which echoed nicely our Hocking neighbors one watershed to the south. The story of salt licks was a "folk etymology" which was a later imposition.


He actually hasn't convinced me, but I think it's a good enough argument to go alongside of the "Salt Run" connection to Granville to account for the 1800-era label "Licking County" to both the watershed and the new political entity that was born off of Fairfield County in 1808.


In 1808, apparently, whatever it originally meant, the label "Licking" didn't have the snicker factor it does now. Our county government wisely created the website "" or we'd probably activate some web blocker programs. Other organizations do some headstands to find a name or designation that doesn't use the county name, or if they have to, they go to an acronym as fast as possible.


Licking County. We don't think about it, because that's how we deal with it. Nerk, Ahia jokes about their name, or at least the pronunciation of it, all the time. Jokes about "Licking"? It's almost too easy, if not too . . . well.


So I have a thought. The river is what the river is, and will carry the name rolling down to Blackhand Gorge for generations to come. But for the county, and for all the business and industry and civic groups that edge uneasily around our name in a governmental sense, why not make a change?


It will cost a little money in signage and paperwork, but not much letterhead gets printed up anyhow. We could have a transition period and use up the old.


Because my suggestion would be: Legend County. We've had the tag "Land of Legend" for many decades, going back at least to the 70's, tying together ancient earthworks, amazing flint deposits, pioneer tales and the growth of unique industrial ventures. Legend County – it would leave Licking County in exactly the same place in an alphabetical list, which is no small matter, and would reduce the concerns non-county folk might have about what has to be changed.


A name change, subtle yet eloquent, that might just pay for itself if even one company chooses to locate here that wasn't going to, because the CEO thought "I just don't want to have to keep explaining the word "Licking" in our company paperwork to people who've never been here."


Legend County. It's got a ring to it, doesn't it?


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in central Ohio; he's not sure how serious he is about this, either. Contact him at or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

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.