Monday, January 15, 2018

Notes from my Knapsack 1-18-18

Notes from my Knapsack 1-18-18

Jeff Gill


Statues on a bridge



Just before the new bridge in downtown Newark was finished, I was heading back to Granville down Mt. Vernon Road, south towards the city and ready to veer right towards home.


The deck had been laid down, and the pillars were now built up; it was earlier in the fall, and a mist was coming up with sunset.


Those pillars were striking, arrayed five on each side of the now wider and more pedestrian friendly passage from Newark's heart to the north side, above the Ohio Rt. 16 expressway beneath.


I've not been there, but from evocative pictures I've seen I was reminded, in a funny way, of the Charles Bridge in Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, across the Vltava River. It's on my own personal bucket list to see and walk across, not the least because of the grand statuary that lines the sides of this historic 15th century structure.


The Charles Bridge has 30 statues, most from around the year 1700 and memorializing figures who are today mostly unknown, even to Europeans. But for our bridge at the center, so to speak, of Licking County, if we didn't have the lightposts that are now there, how would I complete that initial eventide imaginary vision? With ten pillars just right for figures in bronze, who would belong there?


Here's my list – it will never be so, but I enjoyed thinking about what historical personages from Licking County's legendary past I'd immortalize. Your list may vary, and that's fine! Tell me by email who your ten might be. Mine, in rough chronological order:


1. Mary Harris , the "Whitewoman" of Coshocton fame aka "Wakatomica," but likely the first European to see these creeks and valleys. Born at the end of the 1600s, kidnapped in the Deerfield raid of 1704, and matriarch of a Native American family when 2. Christopher Gist came through in 1750, the first to leave a written record specifically mentioning landmarks in Licking County. 3. Rev. David Jones, whose missionary tour of the Ohio Country in 1773 was in part to get him away from angry British Loyalists; he wrote of his passage through our region (Jones' narrative was in Thomas Jefferson's library at Monticello), and commended many of our first settlers to come here in 1802 and 1803, returning to preach in 1807 for local Baptists and others.


4. Jonathan Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, passed through our area again and again in the first decades of the 1800s, likely slept in what's now the basement tavern of the Buxton Inn, and is buried in Fort Wayne, Indiana even though the bulk of his career was spent between Granville and Newark up to the Mansfield area and back again.


5. Fr. Jean-Baptiste Lamy, missionary priest was active in Licking & Knox Counties in the tumultuous 1840s, and was tapped for his good work here to become Bishop of New Mexico, himself already in bronze in the heart of Santa Fe. Ohio claims eight presidents to tie us with Virginia, but actually we can lay claim to a ninth, 6. Edward Roye, born along Mt. Vernon Road just north of this bridge we're discussing. He was seventh president of Liberia, but hey, he became a president after starting out here!


Can I tell you my other four honorees next time? Thank you!


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; give him your list of ten persons worth making into statues for our land of legend at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Faith Works 1-20-18

Faith Works 1-20-18

Jeff Gill


A personal & pastoral thought on #MeToo


I have no #MeToo story to tell.


What I do carry with me is thirty-plus years of sitting, as a pastor, with women in their seventies, eighties, and nineties, in hospitals and nursing homes and living rooms, listening. Hearing story after story after story of being the girl from the country, from a farm, from a constrained circumstance of some sort, and being asked to come to town and be a maid, a companion for an older person, an employee, a boarder. I would guess these stories in my hearing began with a starting point around 1915, rattling down through the decades with peaks in the Great Depression, during World War II, and shortly after war's end and soldiers' return.


The stories I'm thinking of almost without exception involved men long dead, which I suspect has much to do with the fact that I've heard relatively few from women closer to my age, about men more recently and who may well be alive. The accounts shared with me by the dying or fearful-of-dying, the post-surgical recovering and the newly moved into nursing care, in moods always reflective and rarely bitter, but often punctuated with anger that never lasted long, were about how they were "taken advantage of" as the phrase usually is applied.


To my ears, the words "raped" and "molested" often came to mind, but the circumlocutions and roundabout phrasings clearly had at least a mental familiarity -- as for their spokenness, I usually had the impression this was the first time the story had been told aloud, though I would have no way of knowing for sure.


They were usually teens, sometimes in their twenties; it was often the man of the house itself, not a stranger, not a tradesman. Hints and indications would set the scene of daytime at work on nighttime intrusions, but the stories were almost always told me in a spirit of "you can't be too careful," or "this is how I learned to not trust appearances" and of course "sweet words can hide bitter thoughts."


I watch the rolling wave of revelations from media, celebrity, religion, politics; I talk to my son about how surprising some names are, and how unsurprising others sound, but if everyone knew, then how could they . . . ?


And I think about those stories, told from a perspective of decades past, but with a hint always of how some things aren't as easy to get away with for men, but in general . . . rarely did anyone ask me to do anything in response, and almost always they asked for my confidence, confessing the sins of others though they were. I've granted it almost without exception because there's no one to charge, no score to settle, usually not even any family member to ask for confirmation or apology for not believing them (and rarely had they told a soul at the time). What I think they wanted me to know was how hard women have had it, and a sense from me that I would work to prevent such things in the future if I could.


In too many of the stories, there was a marriage not long after the imposition. Not all, but often. Those men, always long deceased themselves, would have their apologies made for them by their victim, later their wife, but still in some way that girl wanting to hear their own forgiveness, to have any fault relieved from their part. But if I was too harsh in my condemnation of the perpetrator, I'd quickly hear a defense (call it a rationalization, but clearly the years had made the story complicated in their own minds) and a request to understand "him."


I have no #MeToo story to tell. And the ones I've been more directly engaged in more recently are not mine to tell, some with more justice in the outcomes than others. Like any parish pastor, I have developed a healthy sense of just how complicated life is. But I know that my willingness to believe "her" story and understand "her" hesitations and anxieties -- that's been shaped by the stories I've been entrusted with. They came to me from women now passed on, but those stories in my mind are daily reminders to me that this is a vast and widespread cultural and social and historic problem which we have much to repent for, and a long way yet to go.


They too, have a story for this present moment, if only to say it's not a recent issue, just a new willingness to talk more openly about what never should have been a young woman's "guilty" secret.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; as a minister he hears many stories, only some of which can be shared. Tell him what story you'd like told at or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.