Thursday, April 26, 2018

Notes from my Knapsack 5-9-18

Notes from my Knapsack 5-9-18

Jeff Gill


An endorsement after the fact



While the publishers and editors here have offered me wide latitude as a columnist, I've probably self-censored much more than I've ever been nudged, let alone told what to write on or not to opine about.


As some of you know, I have a weekly column in the Newark Advocate, but it's more faith and spirituality oriented. My biweekly opportunity here in the Sentinel is intended and expected to be much more general interest, and I indulge that expectation probably to a fault.


I've been writing these last few months, as winter has been pulled kicking and screaming off stage, and during the arrival of spring and all our local daffodil laden glories, about some of the simplest aspects of being a community. The rising of the sun, making progress even against the dictates of the federal government; the growth of weeds whither they will despite our chemical best efforts otherwise; the essential nature of what a house is for.


In the back of my mind, through all of this, is the deeper and in some ways less visible aspect of "being a community." Our community spirit has taken some shocks in the last year, between the political confusion from national and state government policies, a local dispute over the name and meaningfulness of our Christmas Candlelight Walking Tour, proposed developments in the village and township no less controversial than the placement of our fire department, and reassessment of properties by the auditor's office . . . bumping up Granville by 15% but leaving us fourth out of the ten school districts in the county in increase, so this is something being discussed and debated all around us.


And the request by the Granville Schools for an earned income tax to start displacing the emphasis on property taxes, which we all voted on yesterday. I voted "yes," but political endorsements in advance are not encouraged by columnists, a restriction I am content to work within. But I've been asked my opinion often in recent weeks.


So there has been discontent, with deeper roots to be sure, around what it costs to live in our fayre village even when your house is paid for and your children grown and gone. Both online and in the real world, I've been buttonholed by folks worried about our future. What does a sustainable community look like in the next few decades, and are we on that track? Will our older population all have to leave unless they're in a retirement community? Can our civic fabric survive the strains being put on it by politics and personalities?


In short, my answer to that last is "Yes." Absolutely. The handicap of having a wide view of United States history from 1607 to the present is that while you may despair of human nature, it's hard in that full context to despair of the American experiment. We (the nation and the village) will survive.


The previous questions I'm not as certain about. Not in any one circumstance, and I am uncertain in general. But I'm pretty sure of two things. We have to work together on development; village and township and county together. If we're all residential, that's where the tax base will rest, property or income-wise regardless. We need some business and even industry within our boundaries.


And we need to look long and hard about the fact that it is a fairly frequent occurrence for families to move in with children at or around kindergarten or first grade, and to move out of Granville almost immediately upon their youngest's graduation. That isn't something we can ban, but as a community, we need to talk openly and honestly about why that happens, what it means, and how we can reduce that. Parents of former students are a vital part of the community dialogue around education, and I am struck by how those ranks are reduced in our little patch of heaven.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; his son graduated in 2016 but he's still interested in education. Tell him what makes community vital in your opinion at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Faith Works 4-28-18

Faith Works 4-28-18

Jeff Gill


Solomon was ready for spring, too



In the second chapter of the Biblical book "Song of Solomon," the king of Israel writes "For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land."


Palestine then and now has less of a winter than a rainy season; they get skiffs of snow from time to time to beautify the stony landscape, then it melts once the sun rises. What they call winter is a lengthy period of overcast skies and rain in gouts which runs in torrents down the normally dry washes and gullies and valleys cutting between the hills and mountains. Winter is a hard time to travel, a useless time for farmers other than sitting by the fire and sharpening your tools, and generally like our Midwestern winters at least in how everyone gets on each others' nerves, crowded together indoors.


When the rainy season, their winter, is over, the sun shines and yes, the days get longer, and you can go out. Outside, for long walks, fresh air, and that lovely feeling of sunshine warm on your face.


Here in Licking County, as for Solomon long ago, the flowers are finally opening all around, and the daffodils no longer hang their heads in frosty shame for having jumped the gun. The rain is not over and gone, but the source of rain, the solid grey gloomy skies above, is not a constant presence.


And the time of singing? Well, I suspect it's no coincidence that the Land of Legend Barbershop Chorus usually puts on their biggest public deal at this time of year. Tonight at the Midland Theatre they present their annual concert event for the public, with the theme this year "A Night at the Drive-In!" They are also making sure to promote the future and support up-and-coming young singers by featuring the Heath High School Chorus. Small children are free, students and seniors $10, and general admission is $12 and they're sure to give you harmonies enough to be worth it.


Barbershop quartets on courthouse square, music coming out of open windows from passing cars, hymns in church: it is a time of singing. When you can roll your own windows down as you drive, the darndest people will find themselves singing along.


And turtledoves? Well, they're a European bird, but in form and color and call they're very similar to our local mourning doves. A call which some call soothing, others haunting. They're migratory, and return like robins or warblers here in the spring.


There was a fugitive night not long ago where it was warm enough, before Easter, to sleep with the windows open and wake to the chorus of birdsong greeting the dawn. It depends on how you feel about birds, or dawn, as to whether or not you welcome such things. I love 'em. Birds and dawns both. I miss them in the winter, and it is music to my ears on their return, just as the turtledove was for Solomon.


You can find commentaries on verses like this one which explain how what it really means is symbolic. Christ's arrival in the believer's heart ends the wintry rule of sin over your life, and the warmth of grace and forgiveness sets loose the active principles of holiness, the Holy Spirit free to return like the turtledove into a landscape ready for that greater dove to fly down from heaven.


Metaphors abound in the Bible, and I don't disagree with such parallels. As a preacher, they're my bread and butter and jam. I'm also cautious about how much layering I let myself do with a text. Next thing you know, you're making Scripture say whatever it is you wanted it to say before you opened the book and started reading.


Sometimes, you need to just let the text speak directly to you. Read it, hear it, listen with your inner ear, asking how it sounded to those for whom it was first spoken aloud, or sent in a letter. How would those initial recipients have received this news, and what would it have meant in their setting? And then, from that response, start to draw parallels to my own context, to preaching from the reading into the present day.


Jesus might be the summer arriving, but he might just be the flowers blossoming or the birds singing. And the words connect me, in any interpretation, to the reality of that moment then, and now.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he's itching to get outside more before April's over. Tell him what you see in scripture and nature (but don't expect a quick email response now that winter's over) at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.