Monday, May 09, 2016

Faith Works 5-14-16

Faith Works 5-14-16

Jeff Gill


We Make the Road By Walking




What Deb Dingus is doing right now is incredibly brave, and terribly important, and worth a little of your time in prayer, if in no other way.


In case you've missed the social media fuss around the hashtag #GiveWalkDo50, the stories in this paper and others around the state and indeed around the country, our executive director of the United Way of Licking County, Deb Dingus, is walking a meandering but very purposeful path around this Land of Legend, camping out each night and walking step by step the whole way, some 420 miles and more through all 25 townships and just about every municipality.


Yes, she's trying to raise, in events and gatherings along the way these 50 days, about $50,000 for the work of the United Way in our county, but that's not the half of it. Not from where I stand, or walk. She's trying to help weave our county together. To encourage us to be, well, united.


Recent years have seen our county, unlike many in Ohio and most in the Midwest, grow in numbers. People are moving in more than moving away, and that's a good thing. But it also means that some of the traditions and connections and community we take for granted are not present, and like any good present, those gifts need to be given.


Add in that we have many people moving into the county who come from places like Franklin and Delaware and Fairfield Counties, and who still watch or listen to mostly Columbus media, and we have a bit of a disconnect. A lack of community, a reality that is un-united in Licking County.


So Deb is walking, taking it step-by-step, journeying at a slower pace, with a more intentional rate of passage, from place to place and bringing together person after person in conversation, collaboration, and community.


Pilgrimage is a solid tradition in many faith practices; Christianity has the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem and the Stations of the Cross that grew out of that walking practice. Ancient Native Americans whose mark is left on our terrain in earthworks and enclosures appear to have made walks of sixty miles and more to connect their world and their peoples across Ohio, maybe even beyond.


Not long ago, a very moving film was made by Martin Sheen and his son Emilio Estevez, "The Way" about the "Camino de Santiago," a pilgrim's journey across the north of Spain to Compostela, and a story about a father and son finding a new connection even beyond this life, simply through the discipline of walking. Driving or flying don't make these connections for us, but walking can take us to a place of peace that endures.


Dick Shiels and the staff of the Newark Earthworks Center have led walks from Chillicothe to Licking County, that have inspired both today's Native American peoples and local students and citizens who see their lives now connected in ways they had not previously imagined, all by simply walking together from place to place.


So here we are with our own United Way team, board members and staff and all of us who have been supporting our executive director in setting a new pace, a striking example for us all, as Deb Dingus walks and weaves this vast and diverse county into something that is, well, united. For we are, or at least can be, and certainly should be united here in Licking County.


Thursday, May 26, Deb will come back to Newark where she began 50 days earlier (a rainy eight mile day to start, which we hope not to repeat at the end!), and somewhere around noon or just before we will celebrate the closing of a circle in the main courtyard of The Works. She will pass through the Canal Market District which will be dedicated the next day with a triumph of its own on the 27th, but on May 26, I hope many of you remember, and perhaps come join us, as we reflect on what Deb has done for us in a journey perhaps without precedent, but not the last such venture in Licking County.


We're already talking about walking and working, service and learning, prayer and practice as a model for others: starting here in our Land of Legend. It has been a journey of discovery, no doubt, but it has most emphatically been a circuit of connection. Let's stay united.



Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about your journey and how you pray your way one step at a time at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Notes From My Knapsack 5-12-16

Notes From My Knapsack 5-12-16

Jeff Gill


It's Just a Day, One You Make



This week Denison University marks a Saturday commencement, their 175th.


Two more weeks and a day later, Granville High School has commencement, the number of which I'm not sure, except that it's the Class of 2016 and that's a kind of important class to me and mine.


A commencement ceremony is, if you break the word down, a beginning, a commencing of something, not so much an ending, even though that's really what's on order. Diplomas are handed over for what has been done, concluding speeches and songs and celebrations mark an end to public schooling or a college career. It has very much a sense of an ending to it.


But in fact those who complete their stage of education are simply preparing themselves to commence another. Even a college graduate who has no intention of graduate school is going to, on the job, be going "to school." A new computer program or database system, the official workflows or office protocols all have to be learned, mastered, utilized, and it's what you've been going to school for, truly: to be ready to learn how to work with and in that new framework.


You commence to learn as you end a form of formal education, and so this is a turning point, a signal day for you whether concluding a college degree or completing a high school curriculum.


The rest of what makes a commencement ceremony is ritual and culture and tradition. It is theater of a sort, with a script and acts and a finale.  It is a day, and in one sense it's a day like any other day, except your school district, your family, your community has chosen to make of it a particular sort of day. It's special because we've decided to make it so. It has a sunrise and a sunset and in between the usual number of hours, a day like almost any other.


I have a friend who is a woodcarver. He takes a piece of wood and makes something of it, and enjoys pointing out how a particular feature or aspect of the finished product is actually the result of a knot or a twist of grain. That irreducible element of the material is bent to make an ear, a handle, a feather outstretched. It becomes art.


Another friend works in sculpture, banging away at a large piece of rock. Cracks and seams in the stone dictate some of the lines, and she makes of them what she can, her vision turning some of the rest of the material where she will.  In the end, the piece of art has its own integrity.


And I work with words, myself. Certain subjects come to mind, arise on the calendar, and there's a length and placement I have to keep in mind. Within those parameters, I can create. It is both constrained, and free, all at the same time.


Commencement days are very much like those pieces of artisanship. Some is given, and much is not open to adaptation, but in between you can make marvelous connections. In the end, it is what you make of it.


For all of the local graduates, college and high school alike, I hope for you that the art of your day be a practice run for work yet to come, taking each day on its own terms, but making of each as you can a thing of beauty. It is just a day, but what a wonderful day.


Make of it what you will!


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about how you make a day out of the tools at hand at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.