Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Faith Works 11-19-16

Faith Works 11-19-16

Jeff Gill


Around a family table



Tomorrow, on Sunday afternoon Nov. 20, the Newark Area Ministerial Association is hosting a community Thanksgiving service.


Originally planned for Second Presbyterian Church, their pipe organ renovation has not quite followed the original timetable, so their organist, Rick Black (you may read about him on the front pages of this paper from time to time, as a county commissioner) will be sitting in at Central Christian Church in Newark, just up Mt. Vernon Road from downtown.


This 2:00 pm service will include a number of clergy and church leaders from different Christian traditions, and yes, I'll be your host. Welcome!


I've been involved in what we call "NAMA" since 1989; as an organization, it has helped to get the Licking County Jail Ministry off the ground when the new justice center opened in 1988, participated in the launch of the Licking County Coalition for Housing in 1992, and was deeply involved in the start of the Licking County Coalition of Care from 2003 to its formal establishment in 2005.


And it is, in a way, family.


Like any family, people come and go; there are deaths, and new births (well, arrivals!) along with move-aways and retirements. The faces change and our faces, for some of us who have been around that long, also change – or at least hair color does. Patriarchs and matriarchs come to the fore, and fade into the background, but the stories continue. We each play a role, and family dynamics being what they are, those roles are sometimes innate, and often we find ourselves being "pushed" into certain postures by circumstance and surroundings. The wacky uncle, the quiet brother, the caring sister, the nurturing mother. We may not see each other for longish stretches, but the community tends to snap back into place pretty quickly when we gather together.


I have the privilege and opportunity to be part of two other professional communities that meet once or twice a year, as we all do our work largely apart through the seasons, but have our set times to gather and reflect together.


At those fall meetings, which tend to be a full day with presentations, discussions, and a meal together with more to say after the table is cleared, I found myself thinking about how these eclectic gatherings are still, very much, family rituals.


I recall when I was a very junior member of each, said little (hard to believe, I know), and often did not understand much of what was said when things got down to brass tacks. I looked for someone I knew and stuck close to them.


But over the years, I got more comfortable with most of the group, sat where I would, talked to whom I wished and in the general conversation, and had a clearer sense of my own role, and of the body as a whole. At one of these meetings, an elder of the crew said something I disagreed with, and I spoke up to say so, and realized with a shock that others were listening to me as one of the . . . elders. Yikes.


This week is Thanksgiving, a high holy day for families of all sorts. Most of us remember being at the kids' table in the kitchen, or the card table on the sun porch. And I suspect many of you reading this can reflect on how you've moved to where you're more a part of the proceedings, someone who knows your place, and who now can speak to the gathering in ways you couldn't before.


Let's all recall, newcomers and elders, that at family tables, formal or informal, related by blood or gathered on other terms, that we each have the opportunity to make others feel at home, to know themselves as welcome, by what we say and how we invite participation. I pray that we all have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving, and that all of us do what we can to extend the table and our welcoming spirit to those who are nervous, anxious, hesitant, new. May the gift of hospitality be given at every holiday table in the week ahead.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he's looking forward to roasting some Brussels sprouts this week. Tell him how you put leaves in your family table at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Notes From My Knapsack 11-17-16

Notes From My Knapsack 11-17-16

Jeff Gill


No future without memory



When an honorary consul of France says in Swasey Chapel "there can be no future without memory," you may hesitate a moment at the logic of that thought.


She speaks with strength and beauty, a lovely accent and powerful words about the deeds some 72 years before of a young man who now stands before us, weighed down by years and less some parts of himself, but full of accomplishment.


Andy Starrett stood there, self-conscious for his own achievements, but willing to bear the burden for us all of history and celebration. It was Veterans Day, and nearly the day itself when he lost an arm helping France regain her freedom so many decades before, and we all knew it, but Anne Cappel felt it.


This honorary consul of the French government had come to present the L├ęgion d'Honneur to an already honored emeritus faculty member of Denison University, a respected part of our Granville community. A ribbon and enameled metal badge made up a medal with a history going back to Napoleon, and a relevance stretching down to an Ohio day when we all were looking for the better angels of our nature in the throngs around us. It was Nov. 11, 2016 when this presentation was finally ready to be given, long years in the making.


And the presenter said "there can be no future without memory." Which we all knew, in one sense, was untrue. We move forward without recalling the past all the time.


But her point was that the future we seek, the reality we would work to bring into being, requires that we reach back not just for example but for inspiration, not just for proven models but for possibilities not previously thought to be plausible.


With memory, our presenter said to the crowd packed into the chapel overlooking our village, we can see forward almost as far as we can recall from before. Our reach behind us summons into reality the scope of our grasp of what is yet to come, the vision of things to come.


In fact it was in the task of describing what had happened, what was now and forever done, that the consul of France broke down and stopped. To count the cost and tally up the price of freedom, she ceased her praise, however unwilling, of the deeds today and yet to come, and was humbled into silence because of the sacrifices that have been.


Can there be a future without memory? Yes, but the prospect stifles hope and silences vision. With the vision of memory standing there on the platform in the chapel in the person of Andy Sterrett, and sitting in the front row, our World War II veteran friends and fellows, we were able to continue, after a pause. To carry on, the occasion called for a hearty round of applause that we gladly offered up to encourage this brave woman, whose momentary hesitation was only because of the awe she felt looking back, and in trying to summon up for us in words what only deeds can truly describe.


And we will only bring our future into being by living it. Choice by choice, act by act, day by day. We may pause and have no cheering audience to urge us on, but with the recollection of days we never saw, but learned about through gatherings such as we had on Nov. 11 atop College Hill, we have an example that will carry us forward.


Into a future with memory guiding us on.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him your stories of future possibilities at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.