Saturday, July 12, 2014

Faith Works 7-19-14

Faith Works 7-19-14

Jeff Gill


A view from the verge of vacation



Rev. Bueller was picking up a few items off of his desk at the church when he looked out the window at some kids walking by.


They were enjoying summer vacation, he could tell, shorts and tans and dirty feet in flip-flops, walking along the three of them with no urgency or worries ahead or behind.


He hoped for the same to the couple he'd just seen off after their wedding. The vows include "for better, for worse… in sickness or in health" and that was a reality for any pair of newlyweds, but for now, for today, his prayer was that they know the simple joy of being together on a summer day.


It could be hard to do at a reception, he knew.


A stop by the hall to offer grace for the meal, one last prayer by the pastor using the DJs microphone, a quick bite, then home to look over the notes for the sermon tomorrow, and pack for the trip they were leaving for right after the last service.


Sloane had insisted they take at least one trip this summer, and it was funny that she had to be the one to remind him. They'd married between his sophomore and junior years of college, after her freshman year, and both his parents and hers had called it a typically impetuous decision.


In fact, they'd been discussing it for three years. Their action was many things, but impetuous it wasn't. He had his scholarship from the German American Steuben Society (and he'd better check the date of the Baron von Steuben parade this September and let the church elders know he'd be gone that weekend), and they had a plan.


Everyone in college and seminary and in the congregations he'd served had always said "Rev. Bueller is a man with a plan." The plan may change, but there always was one. If you didn't know him well, you might think some of his ideas or activities were pretty unexpected, but that wasn't really the case if you knew how much energy he put into creating moments of surprise and spontaneity.


The kids were already at his sister's in California; she was an engineer with one of those electric car companies, and she'd married her high school boyfriend as well, who had ended up in the movies as if that was something they'd planned. He had steadier work than some college graduates Rev. Bueller knew, ads and TV shows and such.


And choosing ministry was a surprise to some, but not to Sloane, or to his best friends like Frye. He liked people, he loved helping them find happiness, and he truly loved sharing with them good news that wasn't just for today.


As a Christian pastor, the best way to help people hear that sort of good news that lasted, he'd found, was helping them notice the moment they were in, the day they were having. Because it seemed to him that the source of so much misery in the world was how most people spend their lives worrying about the future, or regretting the past.


Or as he liked to say in his sermons: Life moves pretty fast; if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it!


So that's what Sloane had needed to remind him, and why they were heading off for the week. She'd reminded him that he needed to stop and look around. So that's what they were going to do.


With any luck, they'd do their looking around in shorts, sandals, and with dirty feet. And he'd be a better minister for it, or his name wasn't Ferris Bueller.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he has been in some parades in Chicago himself. Tell him what you've seen when looking around once in a while at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Faith Works 7-12-14

Faith Works 7-12-14

Jeff Gill


Other ways, or more ways than one



Back in the 1970s, my Scout troop was famous, or infamous, for our big old purple school bus.


We had a logo for Troop 7 on the side, and did I mention it was purple?


I still make re-acquaintance with people online from those days whose second or third question is "what happened to that purple people eater you guys had?"


The answer is, like most non-profits, Troop 7 may still be Scouting, but busing is no longer their business.


It did break down quite often (and oh the stories of our unexpected layovers looking for water pumps and suchlike along the road), and our drivers were fairly safe, especially given that the bus couldn't go very fast, but today safety regulations and what I'll call "other" regulations that may or may not have much to do with safety, and the big old people eater of insurance took a big enough bite out of our popcorn sales that it simply became no longer sensible to have our own bus.


That's true for most churches now, and even 15 passenger vans can be dicey to keep owned by and operated for faith communities. You see fewer of them on the road or at camp drop-off or other events where half the kids or adults came in church vehicles.


I have a parishoner who has relied on the Licking County Transit to get to worship on Sundays. She has gotten rides from others of us, myself included, but the bus has been reliable. She doesn't yet need a wheelchair or other assistance, but that day could come. I have colleagues in ministry who have mobility restricted parishoners who rely on a vehicle they use through the week to get to worship on Sunday morning, and not only do they not have a bus or van, they couldn't transport a wheelchair with them if they did. I know of at least half a dozen stories like this, and I can't imagine I know everyone.


So I was chagrined to learn that the Transit folk, with the support of the county commissioners, are planning to end Sunday morning service because they are not making money. Or enough money, perhaps.


I'm sure Sunday morning is not a profit center for them, and yes, transportation is a long-standing vexed challenge for our society, let alone for Licking County. It may not continue.


But to hear "there are other services; they have other ways to get to church" was disheartening to me. Churches are doing plenty of transportation already; we take people to medical appointments (a couple in our congregation were recently honored, in part, for that work), we help folks pick up medications or get to surgery or back from hospitals and nursing homes.


And we're often told that, liability wise, we probably shouldn't. Don't even ask me to call our insurance carrier and ask them "is this a good idea?"


So to hear that congregations should take on a role that, on the other hand, the law and regulation and liability is pushing us to stop doing – I have to object.


Ironically, I will be gone on Wednesday, July 16, when a 6:00 pm community input session is scheduled, nor can I drop by the commissioners' meetings this next week on Tuesday or Thursday at 9:30 am to share my concerns. But I do have this column, and I trust some articulate friends in the community.


May I also note, and hope I don't take any votes away from good public servants by saying, that I happen to be quite confident of the faith commitments of not only the three current serving commissioners, and also of the two candidates running this fall. They mean well for and want to do good by the congregations and fellowships and assemblies of this county, which contribute an invaluable amount of care and support for the disabled, needed, and desperate. I accept that implicitly.


But I would humbly suggest that they may not have thought through just how disabled and impaired individuals can safely get to Sunday worship, and that we in the churches are being told not to do this even as we're being challenged (again) to fill the gap.


And I would add this: what if the same effort towards explaining why the Transit Board can't do this was put into communicating that they ARE and can do it? I suspect there are many who don't ask for such service, at $4 or even more, because they don't even think it's offered.


That might just pay a dividend.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he plans on talking personally to the county commissioners and candidates as soon as he gets back. Tell him what happens Wed. night at, or @Knapsack on Twitter.