Notes From My Knapsack 12-25-14
Years in review
Jacob Little, our noted Granville minister of the early 1800s, liked to preach a year-end sermon that took stock of Granville and environs.
He would list in detail all the wrongdoing and bad behavior he could account for, and with a small army of informants he could account for quite a bit. His proposals for the future generally ran to more church attendance and increased faithfulness to the teachings of the Bible (as interpreted by Rev. Little).
Not to knock morality and piety, which each have their place, but vision was not the good pastor's strong point. His perspective was one of checklists and rosters and membership. It should be noted that while his public persona was that of a scold, his ministerial reputation was as a caring, thoughtful, even loving leader of his flock.
As a pastor myself, I read about Little's public pronouncements, and suspect that he had his public inflexible side, and many private moments of compassion that never were recorded in year-end sermons or official reports to session.
Today, it wouldn't be hard to replicate the harsher side of that Presbyterian parson's presentation. The lists of offenses and improprieties are now a matter of public record, with no need for a preacher to hire young people to run about for him or her and to tally up drinking establishments or private entertainments in public places.
This very newspaper runs Granville's own Mayor's Court notes, and the county courts have their own accounts that tell of drunkness and vandalism and divorces and dissolutions. You can watch the television stations at 5, 6, and 11 to hear about shootings and stabbings and conflagrations of all sorts.
Rev. Little would perhaps add a few words about fire safety and the need to avoid unshielded candles to each tally of house fires, and preach about sin and brokenness in the human heart if it had to do with arson, but we still have our own twisted enjoyment that filled a church a century and a half ago, and keeps ratings high when "if it bleeds, it leads." We say we want good news and happy conversation, but in truth it's tried and true that bad news sells, especially when it happened to someone else, but it keeps selling if we have reason to worry that the bad news might happen to us someday.
It was said that the full house old Jacob could count on was because people wanted to know if they would be mentioned by name, or to hear about their neighbors' transgressions. I think it might be safe to say those who gathered had multiple reasons for coming together and hearing out the preacher, whether they looked forward to the experience or not.
We've got a chance to gather together to review and anticipate as a community, coming up in just a couple of weeks. At the high school, at 7:00 pm on Thursday, January 15, the Granville Schools' Board of Education is sponsoring a . . . well, they're calling it an "Economic Sustainability Summit." They've invited key economic players from the public and private sectors around Licking County to come, and they've invited you, and we're going to look at, economically, how we got where we are, funding-wise, and where we're going. It's both review, and vision, all on the table for our future as a community. They intend it as an educational focus, but I think it has implications for much more.
Rev. Jacob Little would have gone to one of these. I certainly plan to attend. And you're invited! Maybe you should go just to see if your name is mentioned…
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County. Tell him about your year-end assessment at email@example.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.