Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Knapsack 1-21-15

Notes From My Knapsack 1-21-15

Jeff Gill


Cold, hard, silent seasons



Once the holidays are behind us, and even the college football national championship is a memory, not an anticipation, we're simply in winter.


Cold, hard, silent winter. Sometimes with snow, often with ice, always with a chill that reaches deep within, to rattle bones and shiver the skin.


This is why John Sutphin Jones left behind the beauty of Bryn Du and founded Naples, Florida (that long pier out to deep water? it ran a coal car rail line to bring baggage from steamers in to shore, thanks to the Sunday Creek Mining Company), that is why so many "snowbirds" leave us in central Ohio and flee to warmer climes whether on the Gulf, the Rio Grande, or any points south they can find.


Winter in central Ohio can be very, very hard. Hard on houses, hard on cars, hard on bodies, young, old, aging or infant. We've had a long run of fairly mellow seasons, with just the high drama of ice storms and derechos for seasoning. Last winter there was a coating of snow for most of the darkest weeks of winter; this winter our snow hasn't been as substantial, but the temps have more than made up for the lack of frozen precipitation.


Is there more or less winter in our future? Even the assumption of global climate change due to human impacts doesn't clarify what central Ohio will see over the next few decades: the models for what's often called warming can mean cooling and snowpack here even as glaciers melt elsewhere.


My aging joints and almanac interpretations point towards a more wintry future for Granville, with snow and cold to mark the season. Good news for skiers, not-so-good for pretty much everyone else.


Tree trimming means that limbs are clipped back beyond where they can freeze and fall onto power lines; snow blades and salt spreaders on village trucks keep the side streets clear, or at least maneuverable. Along Broadway, the restaurants are looking to specials that fight off the chill, even as our frozen custard shop is shuttered and dark until more friendly temperatures prevail


Comet Lovejoy has been a feature of night skies for those who know where to look, a borderline naked-eye cometary body recently discovered and briefly in view across the flanks of Taurus, now fading as it moves past the Sun. Orion gazes impassively at the shimmering fuzzy light to his right, while Sirius leaps to pursue from below and to the left as you look into the southern skies on these icy but crystalline nights.


Winter in Ohio has some attractions, the lines of low-light shadow across snowy coatings making a frigid geometry out of overpasses and tree limbs. Returning to warm living rooms and burrowing under thick blankets can bring a joyful glow to even the most wearied heart.


And bit by bit, morning by morning, the light at dawn comes sooner and sooner, days growing longer and night, and cold, feeling constraints on either end. Soon enough, we'll groan at dawn's early light, and mutter about the heat. In those days, may we remember these!


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in central Ohio; tell him about your joys of wintertime at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Faith Works 1-17-15

Faith Works 1-17-15

Jeff Gill


Why a preacher?



Last week, I invited you to think through the question with me "why a pastor?"


What you may or may not think of as much the same thing is "why a preacher?"


Preacher, parson, reverend, padre, pastor are all ways of referring to the role I was talking about last week. You may hear "preacher man" but of course in many, even most traditions today, the ministerial role may be fulfilled by a preacher woman – my own denomination has long had women in ministry, and it was a lady Rev. who baptized and married my mother, so it's in my DNA of ministry images that women can serve in that central role of Christian leadership.


Preaching, public speaking in church, is an area that women in ministry have entered, and felt resistance in: we're not far from an era when the power of the voice was all that got a message to the back rows, and men were the assumed voice of authority in the culture as well as in church.


To be a preacher, though, is at essence to be a storyteller, and there are many means and modes in which to tell stories. Loud and overwhelming isn't the only way, not even always the best way, to take a tale and tell it to a gathering of hearers. So women in preaching has helped, I think, to expand everyone's understandings of ministry for many different approaches, not just genders.


Why, though, do we need preachers as part of what faith communities do? Is preaching to tell people what to do, or how to live? Can you do what religious folk call worship without preaching?


As a Christian pastor, I have a story to tell. The story of God's promises fulfilled and will revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is my story. It can be your story, too, and basically my job each week is . . . to tell the same story, again and again, so all may hear and know and understand and believe.


In other words, I tell the same story every week, every occasion for worship. No, really, that's what I do.


And I think most preachers in the Christian community would admit, with varying degrees of ruefulness, that we're just telling the same old, old story over and over and over again.


You can see where that takes some special skills – just to make the gospel story fresh and new and making sense in today's context (sometimes referred to as "keeping it relevant"). Some preachers are short and succinct, and others are out of an expository tradition where a longer, more methodical presentation of the Bible version of the gospel is the norm. So sermons may be more of a homily, five minutes or so in length; I grew up in a church where a thirty minute sermon was considered standard, twenty-five minutes being a gift for which everyone gave thanks at Sunday dinner. And our local history tells of preachers in the 1800s who were praised and honored for their ninety minute to three hour long sermons.


Seriously. (They didn't have anything else to entertain them, you might say uncharitably.)


I am generally what's called a "lectionary preacher," which is a three year cycle of the Christian Bible, Old and New Testaments, that many church bodies share together as a pattern for worship and sermons. Since the first Sunday of Advent last month, we've been in Year B of that cycle, with an emphasis this lectionary year on Mark's Gospel, A going with Matthew, C with Luke, and John's (the Fourth) Gospel sifted through all three, especially around Christmas and Easter.


But last year I took a different approach for a congregational effort to read the Bible together in a chronological approach, and left the lectionary behind. It's a guideline, but a good one; in general, the lectionary keeps me from just preaching on my favorite three or thirty passages, and not getting out into some of the wider expanses of Bible reading and preaching.


Can the laity, "lay members," non-ordained, not seminary trained people, preach out of scripture and tell the stories of the Bible in an illuminative way for the congregation?  Sure they can, but it helps to have a solid educated grounding in what the Bible is saying, so we can re-tell those stories in an inviting, converting, transforming way.


Have you ever preached a sermon? Have you ever wanted to?


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about preaching has changed your life at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Downton Christian Church cabinet meeting

Downton Christian Church cabinet meeting (transcript)


Rev. Charles Carson: I believe it is time for us to begin. If you will take up your agendas and…


Thomas Barrow, chair of the property committee: Pardon me, but it doesn't look like we're all here yet. Perhaps if we waited a few more moments?


Mrs. Beryl Patmore, president of the CWF: Time's a wastin', I'd say. Those ham loaves aren't going to make themselves.


Miss Daisy Mason, new deaconess chair: Ooh, I could go check the parking lot and…


Mrs. Patmore: Sit down, Daisy.


Rev. Carson: As I was saying, our agenda calls for an opening devotional and prayer, and I've asked Dr. Clarkson to…


Robert Crawley, chair of the trustees (and owner of Grantham Realty): In fact, I had prepared a little something for this occasion, Rev. Carson, if you wouldn't mind.


Rev. Carson: Of course, that would be splendid, if indeed Dr. Clarkson does not…


Dr. Richard Clarkson, chair of the deacons: Mine will keep to the next month's meeting. (Shakes head resignedly.)


Rev. Carson: Why thank you, Doctor, that's very kind of you.


Mr. Crawley: In the later chapters of Isaiah, well beyond the familiar lines of comfort to which I know we all regularly turn in our travels through this vale of woe…


(Ten minutes later)


Mr. Crawley: …and with that brief survey, I fear we must conclude. (Sudden jerking of heads around the table from nearly nodding off.)


Rev. Carson (gently): And the prayer, Mr. Crawley?


Mr. Crawley: Oh, Dr. Clarkson may do that.


Dr. Clarkson: What? Who? Oh, yes, certainly. (Discontented shake of his head; prays.)


All: Amen.


Rev. Carson: So now if we could get started, not that we haven't been engaged in some very productive work (nodding to Mr. Crawley, who beams back at him), but on your agendas, you will next see that we have a special proposal from Mr. Barrow as to the re-roofing of the education wing.


Mrs. Elsie Hughes, chair of evangelism (softly): Now we're in for it.


Mr. Barrow: What was that, Mrs. Hughes?

Mrs. Hughes: Oh, nothing Mr. Barrow, not a thing that concerns you.


Mr. Barrow: Regardless, as I was saying, I have this friend who has been by our church a few times, not to attend, mind you, I'm sure he's very active in a church of his own elsewhere, not that that's any of my business, but when he's come by here, he's noticed our hail damage.


Mr. Tom Branson, chair of the men's fellowship: Hail damage, Mr. Barrow? I'd not noticed anything like that.


Mr. Barrow (archly): Which you wouldn't. That's the sort of thing you wouldn't notice unless you were a roofing expert, which my, um, associate happens to be. He has very kindly offered to re-roof our entire complex for what, I can assure you, is a very reasonable amount, and assures me that we won't be out more than ten percent of the total since he will get it from the insurance company for the hail damage.


Mr. Crawley: Well, that's good, then.


Mrs. Patmore (softly): Ten percent back to him, more likely.


Mr. Barrow: What was that, Mrs. Patmore?

Mrs. Patmore: Oh, just a tickle in my throat. Never you mind.


Mr. Barrow: I see. (Glowers.)


Rev. Carson: Ahem. That's a question that should involve the finance committee, which is chaired by Ms. Mary, Mr. Robert's daughter, who was not able to attend due to a pressing engagement elsewhere. She was going to send her sister Edith, who turns out to be involved with something else tonight.


Mr. Crawley: I'm sure they're spending their time wisely.


(Around table generally): Oh, certainly….of course….yes, yes….


Rev. Carson: I was going to ask of the memorials committee if there were funds there we could use, to initiate this roofing project.


Mr. John Bates, memorials committee: No.


Rev. Carson: Ah. I see. Well, that sounds definite.


Mr. Branson: Could I ask, Mr. Barrow, if he has any details in hand about the type and quality of the new roofing, or what the total cost is likely to be?


Mr. Barrow: I've given this matter my best attention, and am fully aware of everything that goes into the question. The, um, details of the roofing materials are, well, something we can find out quickly from my . . . friend. They will be extremely cost-effective, I'm certain of that. And the overall color scheme will only change slightly, from the grey pebbled look we have now to a more slate grey texture.


Mr. Crawley: Oh. (furrowed brow)


Rev. Carson: Indeed?


Mrs. Patmore: Might one inquire what would be the problem with that?

Mrs. Hughes: Widow Violet wouldn't like it. (General raising of eyebrows.)


Miss Daisy: I don't understand; Mrs. Crawley isn't even on the cabinet?


(Shaking of heads around the table; Mrs. Patmore scribbles something on the back of her agenda, slides it over to Daisy, who quietly says "Ohhhhh.")


Rev. Carson: That would seem to close that line of inquiry rather completely. (Mr. Barrow looks disgusted, says nothing.) Let's continue on through our agenda in order, then, shall we?