Thursday, April 19, 2018

Notes from my Knapsack 4-26-18

Notes from my Knapsack 4-26-18

Jeff Gill


Machines for keeping the damp off


What's a house, after all? It is, as Maslow's hierarchy tells us, "shelter."


Our constructed cave, our burrow with windows, a treehouse without the steep first step: a house is where we keep the water off our heads.


From the roof to the walls down into the foundations, most of the structure and function of a house is to keep us dry. Because water is a solvent, and unless we want ourselves and all we own to be melted down and washed away, we need a machine for keeping the damp off.


So most of us have shingles up above, but they lie atop a series of layers – tar paper, plywood sheathing, venting poking up through to allow vapors and gases and such to pass back through here and there – that rest upon the trusses which weigh down onto the framing which carry that weight down onto the foundation and/or beams which carry it all down to the solid earth.


Outside, where we don't have windows breaking through to let light in, we have more layering to keep water out: siding or stucco or paint, overlaid onto what's usually some sort of moisture barrier sheeting, the exterior sheathing which nowadays is usually plywood of some sort, and that nailed onto the supporting beams and studs. They're made of simple unfinished wood, protected from the damp by that siding and sheeting and sheathing.


Even working from the inside out, paint onto wallboard with wainscoting or crown molding or baseboards, there's a certain amount of the structural logic that's there to keep moisture from splashing and washing and dissolving and eroding the building from within. Those "decorative" elements are there so the brooms and vacuums and shoetips and the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune don't break down the architecture one cleaning to the next.


And then there's what water does when it freezes; our foundations have to go at least eighteen inches, ideally more, below the surface of the soil, so as to keep below the frostline. In the surface, organic soils, the moisture content is a high enough percentage of the total that when the ground freezes, it heaves out of shape. A fence or pillar or just a mailbox, let alone a foundation, that's too shallow or poorly grounded on sterile soil, can get pushed around by the movement of the earth when it gets frozen solid, then thaws, then comes together solid again.


Which is why we surround our buildings with drainage and subsurface channels to get the water away, so when it freezes it doesn't create more pressure against the house. Not to mention the year-round desire to keep water out of our basements, not to have even the damp in our holes in the ground, driving off mold and keeping away mildew.


This time of year, as we swing wildly from frost to warmth, from sleet to rain, Raccoon Creek flooding and the sprouting earth soggy, I think about those ancient Builders, the Native Americans who first settled and civilized these valleys and plateaus. How did they build their lean-tos in the woods, or construct pit houses on the bottomlands? From the fire hearth to the entry flap, what strategies did they employ to keep both cold and damp away from their families? What woven mats or interlaced branches gave them the ability to shed the spring rains and stay dry as they slept, on earthen benches or lashed cots off the ground?


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County, and yes, he recently had some work done on his house, why do you ask? Tell him how you keep the damp off of you and yours at or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.    

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Faith Works 4-21-18

Faith Works 4-21-18

Jeff Gill


New beginnings are all around us



Last week I talked about the end of "NAMA," the Newark Area Ministerial Association, as an entity. A long history, a lengthy arc of accomplishment, which like all human creations has a beginning, a middle, and an end. But I also noted that there are beginnings sprouting all around.


It's spring, and the daffodils and pear trees and other signs of the season are starting to show their colors. Forsythia bushes seem to have been overruled this year, but their yellow is branching out everywhere, and we know that the snow has to come to an end sooner or later.


Likewise, a faith-based collaborative called "Community In Action – Licking County" has had three or four meetings, their last one on April 10th, to bring churches and community faith-based efforts together in response to the drug overdose crisis (check them out on Facebook for their next scheduled meeting). Here, a number of area clergy, from Newark and beyond, have been part of bringing congregations together.


Not long ago, both Heartbeats and Gideons International held programs to invite churches and ministers to support their work. These groups have their own specific areas of interest, but have tried to provide opportunities to bring congregations together, not just for their own fundraising purposes . . . but that's always in the mix in this world.


The Newark Think Tank on Poverty and the Transport Licking County groups have had a number of ministers and church leaders involved in their gatherings to discuss matters both political and spiritual, about payday lending and health care options, redistricting in elections and justice for different minority groups in public programs.


For churches that used to turn to their judicatory bodies for advice and support, whether they called them districts or regions or dioceses or synods or conferences, there are now many fee-for-service consultants and advisors whose counsel is available on subjects from personnel to finance, mission projects or liability coverage. The basic task of finding a new preacher is something that now search services offer to do on a contract basis where the historic relationships are no longer functioning as well within denominational structures. That's a change for many of us who are older, but for younger church leaders who are used to Uber and Airbnb for personal services, contacting a private provider to look for a new minister in what's not the "standard" way of doing things makes much more sense.


My religious tradition is meeting today at our church camp facility to discuss how to continue being congregations in connection. We don't have the history or polity to compel financial support, but we're not good at convincing each other to share funds, either. My prayer in the week leading up to today is that we find the grace and peace and good will and discernment to work together even when we don't agree with each other.


This is a problem that is both growing for those used to religious tradition affiliations, and disappearing for those who have chose a path that's normally described as "non-denominational." It wasn't that long ago that families moving from one area to another looked for the logo of "their" church, but just as brand loyalty has vanished with toothpaste and breakfast cereal, in large part, so has the "nameplate" for denominations. I'm enough of a child of my particular tradition to find that a positive development, but it means for all of us, my own congregation included, that a family that once would have sought us out now has to be sold on whether our form of the tradition is really to their liking. Brand loyalty? It's gone with baked bean preferences and car sale leanings. Are there still Ford or Chevy families? Well, ditto for denominations.


So there are new affiliations and organizations rising up, and they are even less concerned with artificial borders between churches than our forbearers were. People of good will, come together now to work, and we'll hash out theology over lunch.


Which is really how we all started, isn't it?


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he teaches the history and polity of his tradition, but that doesn't mean he thinks they're infallible! Tell him what you see being born between churches at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Finance review for RCC - Apr. 21, 2018

Finance review for the Ohio Region – April 21, 2018


Using DMF church/school (column #1) giving as benchmark for cooperating churches


1991 - $962,919

176 congregations

$5,471 ave.


1995 - $852,888

182 congregations

$4,686 ave.


2000 - $874,620

159 congregations

$5,500 ave.


2001 - $840,446

166 congregations

$5,063 ave.


2003 - $641,198

129 congregations

$4,970 ave.


2004 - $544,416

121 congregations

$4,499 ave.


2011 - $349,285

 94 congregations

$3,715 ave.


2016 - $412,573

 86 congregations

$4,797 ave.


2017 - $327,681

 79 congregations

$4,148 ave.



Projected 2025 -          50 congregations


$5,000 average per congregation to DMF, or $250,000 (assume inflation adjustment, this is 2018 dollars) which means at 40% DMF return to Ohio, $100,000; plus est. $50,000 individual & other giving to the region, so $150,000 regional operating budget (separate from camp side budget)