Saturday, October 06, 2012

From the Newark (OH) Advocate OpEd page, A7

Jeff Gill back in the saddle again

In Ohio after the Revolutionary War, it was common to have a preacher on horseback ride into an area and preach wherever he found a willing audience. It might be in a cabin, a store, a school, a tavern or even in an open field. These men were called “circuit riders” or “saddle-back preachers.”

In 1825, one of these saddleback preachers, David Montgomery Glancy (a.k.a. D.M.

Glancy), traveled across Licking and surrounding counties on horseback from his home in a log cabin in Rocky Fork, down the road a piece from Newark. D.M. Glancy, who was my great-great-great-grandfather, a physician and a licensed Methodist minister, handed out many Bibles and preached more than 2,180 sermons to his flock, which was spread out in Ohio.

Presently in Licking County, we have a modern day roving preacher who has been serving
 the churches and organizations in our community for more than 20 years. Jeff Gill’s life reminds us of the dedication of a saddle-back preacher, as he has served where called each week.

Maybe you’ve seen him educating a group about the Indian mounds, swinging a hammer to help build a house for Habitat for Humanity, announcing in a boxing ring, mediating with local youth, serving on a community board or leading a group of Boy Scouts in song.

He always is there to support a charitable cause whether making fries at the Fourth of July celebration, serving as master of ceremonies at the Midland Theatre or even portraying a historical character dressed in colonial attire in a cemetery. He has preached in many different churches, assisted with various organizations, pitched in for numerous events and he has been available
 for the people. Fortunately for a local congregation, Jeff recently agreed to modify his itinerant ways and to serve as their minister.

A modern pastor who reads his Bible verses from a Kindle and is connected to the community and to the world by Facebook, Twitter and his weekly column in The Advocate, Jeff is a master storyteller and a historian capturing and holding the attention of his audience through current stories and parables.

We are having an installation service for him at Central Christian Church, 587 Mount Vernon Road, at the 10:30 a.m.

service Oct. 28. Please join us to congratulate Jeff as he continues his ministry.

I’m sure D.M. Glancy and the other saddle-back preachers from the past are proud to have him follow in their footsteps.

Janice Large Newark

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Faith Works 10-6

Faith Works 10-6-12

Jeff Gill


Faith walking, prayer talking




While I'm probably the last person who should be surprised by this, the spiritual side of our walks around ancient earthworks this summer has left me both amazed and delighted.


For those who aren't aware of it, I spend a fair amount of time (too much, my spouse might say) leading hikes and walks and rambles around and along our local earthworks and ancient mounds.


This summer has given me a chance to branch out a bit, not just across the expanses of Licking County, but along our newly developed Ancient Ohio Trail, an idea and a website which is a production of the Newark Earthworks Center with Ohio State, and the University of Cincinnati's Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites (or CERHAS, for obvious reasons).


With a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Ohio Humanities Council, and support from the Ohio Historical Society (OHS), the National Park Service (NPS), and the Licking County Convention and Visitors Bureau, we've tied together 2,000 year old culture and architecture from Cincinnati to Coshocton. I've gotten to be part of interpretive hikes since last November from Hopeton Works across the Scioto River from Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, Spruce Hill up the Paint Creek valley from Chillicothe (managed by NPS and the Arc of Appalachia), down at legendary Fort Ancient, the first site OHS took under care in 1885, and of course around our own Newark Earthworks . . . and many more.


My hat on these walks and tours is one of guide, with an emphasis on the historical and archaeological, but we are getting better at adding the cultural aspect of these engineering achievements, with the involvement of more and more Native American folk. The Newark Earthworks Center has been pioneering efforts to make contact with and renew connections between Indian tribes with historic connections to Ohio before 1832 and "the removal period," along with other Native nations whose people show in DNA and oral tradition that their heritage runs back through these valleys as well.


But the pastor hat is in my pocket, I have to admit. And occasionally, quietly, it goes on my head. When people talk about their own now deceased relatives, and their ties to these sites through memory and affection; when visitors ask "do you believe that there is a curse here?" as we journey through areas of destruction or loss; when a group stops at a point where hundreds, likely thousands of burials once were placed and are mostly still in the ground beneath our feet, and we struggle to find the words and sense to honor what the place means today.


And joyfully so, I feel the pastoral role as I've gotten the chance to walk along where ancient avenues once led, and hear a man talk about his own alienation from his Native traditions and customs, and his sense of renewal in a sweat lodge ceremony, and how our stories here about what Native Americans achieved in this place has changed how he raises his children.


This isn't all about book learning. It's about heart shaping, and story telling. We have facts, we have theories, we have legends and traditions, and we have the quiet steady certainty of the sun's rising and moon's setting, and the seasons within that cosmic frame.


So I invite you, as this long Ancient Ohio Summer comes to an end next weekend, to meet at the Great Circle Museum off Rt. 79, next Saturday, Oct. 13th at 9:00 am. Come walk three miles and change, spend a couple of hours seeing some of the hidden remnants of the Newark Earthworks. Or travel down to Chillicothe on Saturday if you've already journeyed with us on one of the local walks, and participate in the NPS Discovery Day down there (see for details).


Then come out to 33rd St. and Parkview on Sunday, Oct. 14th to experience the last Octagon Open House of 2012, one of four this year, when you can ramble the 50+ acre Octagon or 20 acres of the Observatory Circle. Some of us will be there to provide tours, but you may just want to experience the site, and consider the past, and the peoples then and now on the landscape.


Is it a spiritual or historical experience? My thought is, why choose?


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in central Ohio; he's delighted to show you around next Sunday at the Octagon Earthworks. Let him know where you've been inspired in Ohio at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

World Communion Sunday 2012

Newark Central – World Communion Sunday 2012

Isaiah 28: 23-29, John 12: 20-26

"The Baker's Lament" presented by Dennis Kohler
           by Jeff Gill

*  *  *

So, where were you at 4:30 am?

I was where I always am. You know where the baker has to be, don't you?

This is not a complaint. A baker's life is a good life. My father was a bricklayer, and his father was a farmer. Their lives were up with the sun, and down with it, but their fortunes were just as up and down. The frost or the rain or the economy could cut them off or build them up, and just as quickly bring them down.

Me, I bake the bread. People eat bread in good times and in bad; they may want a wedding cake once in their lives, and some cookies for Christmas, but week in and week out, they need bread, and I bake it for them.

In return for the stability of my livelihood, I don't get up with the sun, I get ahead of it. The sun rises to see me already covered in flour and half done with filling the vats with dough to set and rise in the room by the ovens. And I'm home well before dinner, unless there's one of those cakes to be made . . . but that pays for the extras, so no one minds. I see the dinner table with my family more than my father ever did, or his.

You could call it cleaner work, as well, although it seems like I'm always washing my hands. I'm in dough up to my elbows as often as not, and moving from the rolls to the doughnuts to the loaves, it's all fresh and sweet. Some people don't like the smell of yeast at work, but I remember grandfather's barns, and helping shovel out from around the cows: give me the bakery any day.

And I do still smell it. Some people say the scent vanishes from over-exposure, but I've never found it to be so. Fresh bread baking is my best advertisement, and noses are my billboards, but I get the first sniff. You learn, you train your nose like you would your fingers on a piano or your eyes on sentry duty . . . the faint tinge of too much crust, edging up to overdone; yeast distinct from mold, always a hazard; the richness of bread not quite ready to be removed from the oven, but moments before you might smell something burnt if you waited a touch too long.

[sniffs the air, smiles, lets everyone imagine the scent]

But baking the bread is nearly the last part of what I do. It all starts with the flour. You know, even the Bible knows that you have to have your flour ground just right, not too fine, not too rough. Isaiah 28:28!

You seem a bit surprised, as if I wouldn't know the Good Book well enough to quote it for you?

It's true, I'm rarely in church. Someone has to bake the bread, and I assure you I haven't been sleeping in and skipping services. I'm not one of those who say "Oh, I can worship God just as well out in nature, like the fourteenth fairway!" But of necessity, my work table and my sales counter have become my communion tables. If this is where I have to be, to feed my family and carry out what I perceive to be my own calling, then I need to find my own worship in this space.

So Isaiah and Judges and Ecclesiastes know something of threshing and winnowing and grinding. To get the goodness of the earth into a loaf of bread hasn't changed as much as you might think, no matter how many machines and engines we might have placed in the middle of the process. The farmer tends the grain, and it grows as God sends; after the harvest, the grain comes through the miller to me, and it flourishes as much as I'm willing to work. I can't work hard enough to make grain grow out of season, so I let God do his part and am thankful . . . and my prayers here in the bakery won't make loaves hop on their own out of the oven. God trusts me to do my part, as well, and I know how many depend on me to do it. The mixing and the kneading and the punching down and the kneading and the rolling and proofing and the baking and the . . . well, I don't mean to imply my work is harder than God's. But I do my part.

And God's part . . . yes, there is growth. And there is death. And there is new life that comes as if out of the fire, transformed and reborn. It's right there in John's Gospel: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." My days begin alone, and in the dark, but the ovens are lit, the day breaks, and the smell of bread brings people to my shop. The seed is scattered, but the harvest comes in. The bread is baked, but it must be broken for anyone to eat.

There have been moments in my life, and I daresay in yours, that I would have preserved, untouched. [Picks up loaf of bread from table.] There are losses that hurt so much that you could almost wish you'd never seen the days that led to goodbye. There are times when you have to get up the next day, and come to the shop, and you think . . . why bother? Why must we scatter, and lose, and break? [Breaks the loaf, with half in each hand.]

Except, the perfect loaf on the shelf? It's made of wax and papier-mache. It isn't real, and can't feed anyone, hungry child or indifferent customer. [Sets down broken loaf.] A loaf, so well made you want to keep it on display, for pride and personal satisfaction? It will rot. And given enough time? Will become a thing of horror . . . plus, the health department would shut you down. "Sir, you do know that your display is filled with moldering, decaying lumps of bread?" And will you answer "Yes, but they were perfect, weren't they?" No. If they're perfect, all the more reason to break them, and slice them, and share them, and see them gone.

Because, after all, the next line after Jesus tells us about how the grain of wheat must fall into the ground and die? "Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." [Picks up broken loaf again.]

This way, I have bread that lives on. [Holds up halves.] It gets eaten, and becomes part of those who enjoy it, and strengthens them to go out and love and work and care and try. And love. You can't put the loaf back together again, but it becomes whole and everlasting when the memory of a good meal and the meaning of the time spent around that table goes into those lives. [Sets halves down again.] And that love.

And those lives are what God uses to make something eternal, something everlasting. Our lives, your lives, my life. I may only make it to church for Christmas Eve and Maundy Thursday, smelling of dough and toast and a bit of icing behind my ear, but I know enough of God's plan for this world to know this: that for all the reaping and grinding and rolling and baking we might go through, we are part of the recipe. We ourselves are invited to be fed by feeding others. Our brokenness can help make others whole. Our hunger for grace can feed others with the Bread of Life.

Me, I've got to go make the doughnuts. Cream filled, the kids love those.

[ten minutes]