Thursday, October 29, 2015

Notes From My Knapsack 11-5-15

Notes From My Knapsack 11-5-15

Jeff Gill


The Times, and the Sentinel, Are A Changin'



This year is coming to an end with some pretty remarkable changes happening, that in another way, most of you probably won't notice.


My editor in these pages will no longer be ol' Chuck, as Peppermint Patty might say. Charles A. Peterson steps down as editor for this paper and I will, Deus volent, have to get used to a new e-mail address and point of contact for this column . . . should they wish to retain my humble services!


Of all the many editors I've had over the years, here and with the Booster that preceded my Sentinel tenure, and at the Advocate for my other Saturday column on the "Your Faith" page, I have had Chuck as my go-to guy for more years than any of them. It's nice for a writer to know what's being looked for and how they're responding to certain subjects or topics, because every editor is a little different. When they leave and new ones arrive, more changes than just the e-mail.


Chuck has given me wide latitude to try things over the years that aren't common to a community column slot, and he's put me up for awards, which has gotten me feedback from far beyond our circulation area: for all that, and just for being a friendly face with a helpfully critical eye, thank you Chuck, and I will miss you!


Likewise I'm going to find some new adjustments in my work as a citizen who chairs your village Board of Zoning and Building Appeals. As a member for eight years and chair for the last few, I've always worked with Alison Terry as our Village Planner. She has made our lives simpler and more straightforward through those years for all of us volunteers on the panel.


I can't say she's made our lives easier, because that's not within her scope. The challenges that arrive in the village planning offices come with questions and requirements that are often entirely outside of any of our control, and the challenge for the BZBA is to navigate fairly and justly the desires of property owners, the wishes of neighbors, the intentions of council codified in ordinances and further interpreted by appeals court precedent, and to reach decisions that, ideally, won't be overturned. As I perhaps say too often as chair, if it were easy, it wouldn't have gotten to us in the first place.


But Alison's role supporting us in the requests for variances and conditional use permits and such has been invaluable. She is always prepared (would that we all on the panel could say the same!) and has anticipated all manner of twists and turns the discussion takes that we may not have even imagined.


I've not had but two jobs in my life that were eight years and more. The BZBA has had new law directors and new recording secretaries, but Alison has always been there for us, even when we know she'd like to get home to her kids. Well, she's decided that they need to be her first priority, so we lose her as this year ends, but hope to see her around in various roles: just not as Village Planner.


The new planner will have some big, and very stylish shoes to fill . . .


For most of you reading this or in the village in general, life will go on, the paper will come out, and new structures and remodeling of old ones will continue. But for those of us closer to the production end of those processes, it will really be a new year in 2016!


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about transitions you see happening at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Faith Works 10-31-15

Faith Works 10-31-15

Jeff Gill


The Eve of All Saints



"For all the saints, who from their labors rest…"


It's a beloved hymn, and one that's often sung at this time of year to commemorate the church calendar feast of All Saints, or "All Hallows" in old English usage, making the day before All Hallows' Eve, or good ol' Hallowe'en.


Make of it what you will, but most of it has been made over from churchly purposes, and the remnant is, well, tomorrow for some of us.


All Saints' Day is a time to remember all those who "have died in the Lord," that "great cloud of witnesses" who are the faithful departed. Many churches will include an "in memoriam" of some sort in worship tomorrow morning.


But as Paul says in Romans 1:7, "To all those being in Rome beloved of God, called saints: Grace to you and peace…" The saints of God are not just the deceased, but those who are wholly God's, and kept holy in faith, and between "holy" and "saints" is pretty much the same word, "hagios" in Greek.


Yes, there might just be saints reading this! Whether it's a saint who's writing it…


We might be abashed to claim that title of "holy" for ourselves (although Paul would point out that, through grace and mercy, there's nothing to claim, but it's a gift that's being given to us), but I think we all know people in our faith communities who are saintly indeed, holy in intention and action, whose role in our lives and often in whose years there is a quality we can only call "hagios," saint or holy either way.


At our church, we've been spending Wednesday nights working this fall through James, and the call for the faithful to tend to "the widow and the orphan" is made clear to us. Those who are on the margins of society are where God is calling us to be present and active, of that there's no confusion. Not all widows or widowers are saints, but among our seniors, there is a faithfulness in patience and sorrow and even suffering that is humbling, that brings to mind that which is holy.


There are two Sundays each month that our congregation has taken on the responsibility of bringing a simple ecumenical worship service to two different nursing homes. The first Sunday of the month is always one, and the third another. Often, I go and lead and share an edited version of my Sunday message; edited simply because about twenty to twenty-five minutes is about all that works well in those settings.


But not infrequently I have another church event or conflict, and a number of other leaders in the church can step up, leading a few old familiar hymns, offering a prayer with the Lord's Prayer as its anchor, and a message is shared. We would not want to let them down or leave the eight to twelve at each place who are expectantly waiting for our arrival those Sunday afternoons to face an empty doorway, and no opportunity to share in a gathered time of worship.


It startled me to learn, though, that at both of the local nursing homes we come to, we are the only Sunday worship that comes in. They wait a month until we return, because that's all that they have showing up.


So in honor of all the saints of the Lord, past and present, I'd like to put a challenge before the other church bodies of our area. There are at least 220 congregations in Licking County. There are about ten nursing home facilities in Newark & Heath, maybe two dozen in the county as a whole. It strikes me that if every congregation would find an open Sunday afternoon near them, and commit to once a month regularly, this should be a blessing that James and Paul and even Jesus would honor. Some forty churches in Newark and Heath would cover the Sundays, including fifth Sundays since there are already a few like Spring Hills Baptist and Bible Baptist Churches that are already, like Newark Central Christian, doing more than one Sunday a month anyhow. If you're not sure you can do this (and you can, you know), take a fifth Sunday for a facility, and that's just three or four times a year.


For all the saints, they should not be sitting waiting for weeks to worship. Let God's people go forth in song and prayer! If you don't have a homily at hand, just read a few psalms.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him what stories have helped you understand wholeness in your life at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.