Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Faith Works 2-11-17

Leonard & Ryan --

I had a series pre-written and set up to take me to Ash Wednesday, but I think given all the events of the last four or five days in our county, I needed to shove that aside and put this essay out there. I will re-submit the previous column marked 2-11-17 as my 2-18-17 column instead, so you can just delete it for now.

Sorry for any confusion my earlier submission may have caused: the following is the column I want to put in for this week.

In grace & peace,

+  +  +

Faith Works 2-11-17

Jeff Gill


Three numbers you must know





Got it? Three numbers. Like 911, which is what you call for emergency response, whether medical or fire or any threat of imminent harm.


And blessings with everyone working in and around our county Emergency Management Agency in the last week, which has had a remarkable set of challenges out of the "ransomware" crisis disabling much of our county phone and file management. The County 911 System has kept working right through all the technological setbacks and in the middle of these makeshift arrangements have had to deal with a spate of emergencies that have tested everyone involved: and they have passed that test with flying colors.


But among those crises and tragedies has been a theme that we all need to attend to. Sometimes, the tragedy is building, but hasn't yet broken. On occasion, you see a sorrow threatening to overwhelm someone else, and you feel helpless to respond. There are times when a crisis is not yet, as some would measure one, but you believe the crisis in close at hand, and needs to be prevented.


This is why you need to know 2-1-1. Just dial 211 on your landline, and on most cell or smartphones. 24 hours a day, there's someone waiting to talk to you, about suicide, about concerns over a friend or family member who is acting as if that might be a possibility, about addiction and how to act on a determination to make a change.


Call 211. You can also find them online at www.211pathways.com; some of us go back far enough to recall the old Crisis Center, and that number still works (with the area code!) of 740-345-HELP (4357). And if your cell service doesn't respond to 211, you can call 800-544-1601.


When you call 211, you don't have to prove you have an emergency right off. 911 has to keep the line clear, and can't talk to you about your problems on a potential or possible nature. They would, if you called about a friend who had started to give away their personal possessions or talking about being dead and making you really, really nervous, tell you to call 211.


Pathways trains their 211 operators as "Crisis Response Specialists." They know how to help you figure out what the concern really is, and where to go next. They don't drive out to your house any more than a 911 dispatcher gets in their vehicle and respond themselves, but they know whom to contact.


Suicide is a tough subject. Addiction, and anxiety, and urgent concerns that aren't tied to an immediate threat of harm, but are surely heading there given enough time: you have someone to call. 211.


If you are a helping or caring professional – and that includes clergy! – you can call when you're flummoxed, when a situation baffles you, when you just don't quite know how to help. I've done it before as a minister, and I'll do it again: I call 211 and say "hey, Pastor Jeff here, and I've got a situation and I'm trying not to send someone off on a wild goose chase." The CRS trained person on the line will look up the right resource, the proper contact number or address, and give me the ability to make the right referral, the most direct assistance, real help in real time.


We need to think about, tell others, and use 211 more than we do. They know over at Pathways that the hardest calls to deal with are the ones they learn never get made. You may not have the problem, but you see it, and aren't sure what to do (or NOT do). 211 can help.


And a favor I try not to ask very often: I hope every adult Sunday school class in the county has someone who clips this column, brings it in tomorrow to the group, and reminds them about 211. Anyone can call, everyone can help. 211 gives you the tools to build a better response in your church, your family, in our world.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about the changes that caught you and your church off-guard at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Faith Works 2-11-17

Faith Works 2-11-17

Jeff Gill


Things I Didn't See Coming


Recently a tech company created a charming video based on "The Jetsons," updating that 1962 cartoon's opening with 2017 special effects, and our own particular view of "the future."

"The Jetsons" purported to be how we'd be living in 2062, and some of what they presented has already come along, even though we're still way behind on flying car technology. Self-driving cars are apparently just around the corner, with all that a two-dimension transformation in transportation will bring our society.

That makes me think, as a pastor and a leader in church community life, how changes affect us. I just read a good essay on the prevalence, in some circles, of a Sunday 11:00 am worship service. The question wasn't so much about Sunday as it was THAT particular hour: 11 o'clock. It's not Biblical, it's not even all that historically traditional . . . and it seems to be rooted basically in a village and town model of a largely agricultural community where morning chores and time to travel meant 11 was the hour. Sunday school, recall, is another non-Biblical innovation, if innovated in the middle 1800s and becoming common around the early 1900s.

So it's a hundred years old, but that doesn't make it an eternal necessity. Anymore than 11:00 am on the signboard is. Or any other particular time of day. So many churches now have Saturday evening services to usher in Sunday, or Sunday afternoon worship, and so on.

When I was a kid watching the cartoons on Saturday morning, I couldn't image there would be a time when you didn't have Bugs Bunny starting the weekend… or that you could watch cartoons on your lap any day or time of the week. The shape of entertainment and weekends have changed, but church, not so much. Should it? In some ways no, but in many ways, maybe so.

That debate about religious essentials is an old one, and I'm not sure I want to get right into that side of the question, so I want to change the subject even if it's just a quarter-turn on the dial, and ask this: what did I not see coming, what has changed in our society and circumstances that weren't anticipated, at least by me, and what might that tell us about how to move our feet to keep standing firm in shifting sands ahead?

I want to offer a few of my own "things I didn't see coming" this week, and would be happy to hear some of yours, although I know I've got enough to carry on to a second week already . . . but let me know which topics come to mind for you under this heading.

One big surprise for me in the last thirty years has to do with debt. Credit cards were already widely used in the 1980s, so the cashless society was not exactly a surprise. What has been a source of continuing amazement to me is the general acceptance of debt. Dave Ramsey has made a career out of arguing against it, and teaching people how to work back out of it, but the need for his work has been a testimony to just how much headway the basic trend has made into our lives. Every time I think personal indebtedness is starting to creep back down, it seems to make a resurgence. Mortgages with less than 10% down, reverse mortgages, crushing credit card payments that are still not touching principal, loans of a wide variety of mechanisms mostly not well understood but still widely used: helping parishioners deal with debt is a huge issue I didn't see coming. 

Likewise gambling. Las Vegas existed when I was a kid, and Atlantic City came along, and then the casino boom exploded right here in Ohio. Lottery and gambling vacations and slots just a forty minute drive from my house: this touches every family, and not in a good way. The Methodists spoke out against it to the end, but it's over, at least for this generation. Gambling is simply accepted, by everyone, as a fundraiser, an activity, a vacation program, and a tool for paying public obligations (like education) -- and we're all expected to play. Not gambling makes you a very odd duck indeed. Not that I mind being that sort of fowl, but it didn't used to be odd among clergy & Christians.

What didn't you see coming?

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about the changes that caught you and your church off-guard at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.