Thursday, June 08, 2017

Notes From My Knapsack 6-22-17

Notes From My Knapsack 6-22-17

Jeff Gill


Traffic concerns have simple solutions



Recent village council meetings have featured questions and concerns and public statements about traffic.


Traffic studies, traffic flow, and that necessary counterpart to traffic, parking. Talk of traffic moving too fast, and worries about having to go too slow and even stop just to travel a few traffic-calming blocks. Declarations about fairness and justice and the rights of older drivers and the safety of children all have been made, sometimes to contradictory points.


Sitting at one of these meetings and hearing out our fellow citizens as they speak with great passion and intensity on their particular issues around traffic, it occurred to me that I have seen a solution to these complicated problems, and an opportunity for our fair village.


Mackinac Island.


Yes, I've written about this before, and good for you remembering because it was a long, long time ago . . . so maybe it's time to explain myself again. Have you ever been to Mackinac Island? If not, you should put down your newspaper or laptop or tablet and get going. I'll wait.


You've been there? Great, then you know what I mean. Mackinac Island, at the Straits of Mackinac between Michigan's Upper Peninsula and the lower bulk of that state up north, just east of the the Mighty Mac bridge, has many things to commend it to the visitor, and one thing it does without.




Motor vehicles are entirely banned on the island. That's not strictly true, as there are a few trucks that operate at night to move some heavy freight around the island, but in general, even trash hauling and baggage let alone passengers have basically two options: horses or bicycles.


Let's just do that in the village core of Granville. Let's go "Somewhere in Time" and eliminate motor vehicles between 6 am to midnight. Trucks passing through and deliveries can be made overnight, but we just shut down all the streets to anything that's not pulled by horses or pedaled to the doorstep.


We could put parking lots at either entrance to the village; actually, I hear the high school lots may have plenty of excess space next year, so we could just use that, and along River Road. We could add to the "Mackinac Island" experience by having people leave the parking area and enter Granville on the southern side by having them take a ferryboat across Lake Hudson. From the high school lots, it could be a natural gas shuttle as many National Parks are using for access from a gateway to the center.


Those worried about children trying to cross at intersections, or who find navigating the slalom of College Street; for people who honk when you don't turn right on red when pedestrians are crossing (or dart inside your lane when you hesitate too long for a mother and child just stepping off the curb, true story) – everyone wins.


For many years, when I smell fresh horse manure, I think of Mackinac Island and the pleasant visits I've made there. I think it's time that when we smell manure, we think of Granville as well.


You're welcome!


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; no, he does not own a livery stable. Yet. Tell him what you think our traffic answers are for the village at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Faith Works 6-10-17

Faith Works 6-10-17

Jeff Gill


Cash on hand, in pocket, in the cloud



Money and churches.


Yeah, it does bring out some of our least favorite human qualities. Some might even refer to "sin" in that context . . .


Keep in mind that James tells us in his letter that "the love of money is the root of all evil," not necessarily money itself. But money bears watching.


The Bible is emphatic about this. Overall, there are around 500 passages about faith, some 500 on prayer, but more than 2,000 verses about money and possessions. Jesus tells us more about how to justly handle money than he does about heaven or hell, with 16 out of 38 parables being specifically about money and possessions.


So it's important. I suspect I'm not alone among clergy in usually spending some time after Pentecost and as summer begins looking at stewardship information and education. If you wait until after Labor Day, you'll be playing catch-up, just as our minister of music and I are usually solidifying our plans for Advent and Christmas as August begins.


I was in a conversation with a clergy colleague who was expressing some frustration about lay leadership and board meetings and church financial matters, and I off-handedly said something that he said I should put in my column. Now, I get told that about a wide variety of subjects, but that may be the first time anyone told me to say here something I said myself! But as we talked through the subject, I realized it might be a useful observation.


My thought, or question, or in some settings my concern is that in many congregations, our board meetings (or session, or church council, or whathaveyou) tend to be really more of a "finance committee of the whole." What I mean by that is the tendency – and I say this having served in leadership with seven congregations, consulted for a dozen and a half more at least, and a few wider or "regional" church bodies – for us to act when we meet for general leadership purposes as just a big fiscal review committee. We comb the statements for specific issues and concerns, and spend more time on the financial reports than almost everything else put together.


Yet when I'm on the boards of non-profits and other organizations, often with large and complex holdings and plenty to fuss over, there's usually a finance committee or development team or some specific oversight group that has done the fine details, and submits a report. The balance sheet and profit-and-loss and investment statements are available, but the whole board doesn't try to go through and second-guess or retroactively review individual expenditures. That's the finance team's job. The board is looking at the goals, the vision, and measuring their progress with benchmarks that include, but don't heavily emphasize, the financial numbers.


There are plenty of reasons for boards to get that way. One is size, and another is the complex set of relationships, functional and dysfunctional, that tend to crop up with questions of leadership in a small to medium size, long-standing organization. We know each other (or think we do!) and to be perfectly blunt, church leadership meetings do tend to have a fair amount of second-guessing going on.


And on the other hand, I'm working with my denominational structure through a series of problems right now, challenges that have their roots in financial information held so closely, so tightly, that years of leadership have found it easier to just skim over the details and avoid hard discussions about sustainability and support.


So there's a happy balance, a golden mean for such earthly matters. If your faith community spends more time on money than any other subject, that's probably not a good sign - and if you never discuss it, or see the actual figures of income and outgo clearly put, you've just got a different sort of trouble.


"The love of money" is at the root of many of our problems in community. We love controlling it, and knowing how it gets used: donor designation is the big growing thing in non-profit as well as church circles, where those giving have more and more say in how their gifts are used.


Meanwhile, finance or stewardship teams have their hands full with the trend growing for people to not have money, and for currency and checks continuing to give way to cards and electronic transfers. Stay tuned! It might have to be a full board discussion…


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about how you give to your faith community at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.