Thursday, February 18, 2016

Notes From My Knapsack 2-25-16

Notes From My Knapsack 2-25-16

Jeff Gill


E Pluribus, Multitudinous



We're heading into a primary election, as if you didn't know it, whether you wanted to or not.


The ads are now lapping at the shores of Ohio, after the dollars and mailers and TV spots and robocalls have blanketed Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina. Appearances will start to happen in this state, maybe even by our own Gov. Kasich, after they've tromped through the snow in New England from diner to diner, and around the Low Country from pulpit to pulpit.


Debates and town halls and those obscure, real time appearances on CSPAN that we political wonks really love: maybe we'll get us some of those in Ohio in the run-up to March 15.


Eight years ago we were heading to a March 4, 2008 contested primary, and there were still presidential matters up in the air enough to bring candidates to the ground in Ohio. As I recall, Licking County's 125 some voting precincts then split in the Democratic contest with 8 going to Sen. Barack Obama, and 117 to Sen. Hillary Clinton.


And the eight Obama precincts were all Granville.


Our bucolic college town can claim a certain amount of prescience, perhaps, and surely a bit more diversity didn't hurt. The Obama For America meet-ups and events I saw online certainly all focused on this village, and across the rest of the Land of Legend, the union-based support for Hillary was still leaning strongly in a more traditional direction for Democratic organizational and get out the vote efforts (GOTV in pol parlance). Even so, the county as a whole went about 60% Clinton, with a very strong 40% to Obama. He had voters in quantity from the east end of Newark to Pataskala's outer edges, in pockets all over the county.


Just not quite as strongly as Granville supported him!


(Footnote: those percentages ignore a third candidate who got one to two-plus percent around the county, the now discredited and discreditable John Edwards.)


You could infer from all that about Granville that this is a very liberal place, but in that you would be wrong. In the Republican primary of 2008, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Ron Paul (Rand's dad), Mitt Romney, and the late Fred Thompson got votes in this county of (in the same order) 30%, 50%, 5%, 3%, & 2%.


The precinct by precinct breakdowns are no doubt still available at the Licking County Board of Elections (say a prayer for them these next few weeks as the voting is already well under way in their offices!), but not on the website, where just the county totals are present as an aid to memory. (Note to editor: add this or edit it out as makes sense according to current protocols -


As I recall, Granville was fairly evenly divided in total voters between Democratic and Republican ballots; on the GOP side, unlike the county totals, Huckabee did poorly while McCain and Romney were at the front.


Like the country, Granville is split. There are conservatives, social and fiscal, and liberals, progressive and even Democratic Socialist in loyalties; if you assume you can walk into any gathering here and find complete unanimity, you assume wrongly.


Is this a bad thing? I'm sure a Granville where everyone agreed on everything would, at the very least, be a different place than the village that we know today.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him how politics is a topic where you hang out at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural Address, January 20, 1981

“We are not, as some would have us believe, doomed to an inevitable decline. I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing. So, with all the creative energy at our command, let us begin an era of national renewal. Let us renew our determination, our courage, and our strength. And let us renew our faith and our hope. We have every right to dream heroic dreams. Those who say that we are in a time when there are no heroes just don’t know where to look. You can see heroes every day going in and out of factory gates. Others, a handful in number, produce enough food to feed all of us and then the world beyond. You meet heroes across a counter—and they are on both sides of that counter. There are entrepreneurs with faith in themselves and faith in an idea who create new jobs, new wealth and opportunity. They are individuals and families whose taxes support the Government and whose voluntary gifts support church, charity, culture, art, and education. Their patriotism is quiet but deep. Their values sustain our national life. We shall reflect the compassion that is so much a part of your makeup. How can we love our country and not love our countrymen, and loving them, reach out a hand when they fall, heal them when they are sick, and provide opportunities to make them self-sufficient so they will be equal in fact and not just in theory?”

Faith Works 2-20-16

Faith Works 2-20-16

Jeff Gill


Bandwidth and Communications in Churches



Doing more to get less is generally considered a sign of inefficiency, if not a lack of smarts (or just plain being out of your mind).


The goal of communications is to get the biggest bang for the buck, you'd think, but that's not as easy as you might think, not if you're living and working in 2016.


Quite a few ministers and church leaders of my acquaintance are somewhere between frustrated and exhausted, and when they come to me for comfort they're more likely to hear more bad news… not a role I like to fill.


The dilemma begins with internal communications, which for many faith communities is the main question when it comes to making connections (more on that in a bit).


What not long ago was the province of a church newsletter sent by mail weekdays, and a few calendar lines on the back of a worship bulletin Sundays, is now something much more complicated.


Add in pastoral care communications, which are more personal, but with an import for the whole church community: it used to be, not so very long ago, an answering machine at home for the pastor, and a secretary answering the church office phone, leaving pink "While You Were Out" slips in a mailbox or on a spike atop the parson's desk.


Today the average to smallish size church might have a Facebook page, messaging through that Facebook page both inbound and outbound, a Twitter account with DMs through that, a landline to the church building with voicemail, cell phones to the key leaders, and e-mail accounts for a variety of purposes. I have a personal e-mail, the more public one you always see at the bottom of this column, a church e-mail and a prayer line address. Meanwhile, I have a landline and voicemail at home.


All of which adds up to the possibility that prayer concerns or last minute schedule changes can come in through an e-mail to the church, to me personally, to someone else who may forward it to me or it's tucked into a prayer chain e-mail to a group, or it could come as a Facebook post, a message, or a Tweet (posted or messaged), unless it's on the church voicemail, my cell voicemail, or my home voicemail.


And to get that word out to people, if need be, we have in the office the options of the monthly print newsletter & calendar, the biweekly e-mail prayer notes and updates, a special e-mail (which you don't want to use too often or people start tuning out your messages), a post on the Facebook page, or putting in the next Sunday bulletin either as a calendar note, brief news article, or insert. (But people don't attend as consistently as they once did…)


Plus the big sign out front, which has plusses and minuses of its own.


I noticed over Christmas and New Year's that most of the remaining churches I knew that were still bulk mailing large numbers of newsletters had published announcements saying they would be discontinuing this practice. Some would be printed for pick-up, and a few mailed first class to the homebound, but the push was to electronic delivery. Yes, for speed, and this is a year when bulk mail will be oddly delayed on and off with the surge of mailers from political campaigns, but mostly because of cost.


So you pick up some monetary savings, but you add to the question "how to communicate with our congregation?" Because more and more people want to be communicated with the way they want to be communicated with, and most of our culture is delivering exactly that. Do you want to hear about it through Instagram or Vines or Snapchat? Then that's where media is going, and churches are struggling to follow.


Yet many still want the phone call, the printed sheets in the mailbox, so we find ourselves in church life trying to "do it all." And "all" gets broader, more complex every day.


Do you see what gets missed in this kind of discussion? It's all about internal communications, which are important, no question: but what about external communications? How do you share your news – your Good News! – with those not already on your mailing list or e-mail roster? How has that changed, and what can we do with those opportunities?


More next week, this time, looking outwards.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County. Tell him how your faith community keeps everyone on the same page, virtual or otherwise, at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.