Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Notes from my Knapsack 10-11-18

Notes from my Knapsack 10-11-18

Jeff Gill


Tearing down the old school



When last we met, I was telling you about Granville's first school building, a log structure but with a lot of love and extra bonuses built into it, considering the era.


From the winter of 1805 into 1809, the first log school house was used for a variety of purposes, but Our Fayre Village loved education and valued its place in the community from literally its very foundation. We finished the school building before a church was completed, using the interior for worship until the sanctuary across the way was done. The original log school sat where Centenary United Methodist Church is today.


According to Bushnell's invaluable "History of Granville" of 1889, there came a night eighty years earlier when "the boys, in their evening pastimes on the common, bethought them that it would be a very jolly thing to take down the old log school house. As it would help their sires thus much, they thought it would be a meritorious frolic rather than otherwise. Though it was on the public square, and their noisy proceeding must have been observed by older people, no one interfered with them. They first took out the glass windows with great care, which had replaced the oiled paper; took the batten door from its wooden hinges, and carried them, with all that was of any value, across the street, and stored them away at Mr. Josiah Graves'. Then, beginning with the weight poles, they dismantled it down to the joists. Then, becoming weary, they went home and to bed, and slept with quiet consciences."


Aside from noting that you really had to be hard up for fun to enjoy taking a building apart for amusement, it actually makes sense to me. A bunch of young men, knowing the structure was coming down soon: how often do you get to tear down a building and not get in trouble? So they did . . . and got in trouble. Sort of.


The justice of the peace, Timothy Rose, and a few other leading citizens, decided to teach them about lawlessness, and convened a mock trial. Which is to say, the men knew it was mock, the boys did not. They were gathered a few nights later, one of them actually being gotten out of bed, and brought together where a hearing was held in high formal dudgeon. The young men were smart enough to know they needed to confess all, and did; the court then assessed them a fine for unauthorized demolition: of one quarter apiece.


Inflation has taken a toll, but in truth from 1809 to 2017 that's maybe four bucks in today's money. The problem was that "Twenty-five cent pieces were very scarce at that time, and it began to look pretty serious to them. It waked up their ideas about law and order. Then all the officers, as the boys looked unutterably penitent, consented to throw in their fees..." and let them in on the joke.


Bushnell says of the new frame school house built the next year: "It was 24 x 32 feet, and nine feet between joists. It stood with the side to the road. The pulpit was in the west end, a little raised, with a window at either side. In front of it was the deacons' seat, where, according to the custom of the times, two deacons sat, facing the audience, during each service. To the right and left, extending well down the sides, and occupying the school desks, the choir was seated. In the end of the house, opposite the pulpit, was a large open fireplace, on the north side of which was a closet for the wraps and dinner-baskets of the school children, and the front door opened right against the chimney, on the south side."


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he promises there's a point to this quaint series of historical tales. Tell him where you think he's heading at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Faith Works 9-29-18

Faith Works 9-29-18

Jeff Gill


Changing the angle of vision



When you try to see things from God's point of view, it can be a bit of a stretch.


Honestly, we're just not cut out for that perspective. It takes abilities we just don't have, though we can catch glimpses and inklings of it.


What we can do is change our usual angle. In so many ways (seats in church for instance) we can get stuck on a single point of view.


As I mentioned last February, I've found that I have a mild neurological disorder which can become a major problem for someone who mostly talks in his work. It's called spasmodic dysphonia, and there's a treatment if not a cure which involves periodic injections . . . into my vocal cords. Yes, it's as much fun as it sounds.


And I trade some improved function in the months to come, as I recently did for a goodly stretch, for a brief period of relative incapacity. In short, I can't talk above a whisper for a week or so.


What I did last Sunday I commend to any other preacher, lay speaker, or church leader in any form who gets used to one particular vantage point. I sat in the back. And it was a learning experience in many ways.


I learned that at our second, larger service, 20% of the worshiping congregation arrived after the stated time of service. I don't know what that means, or even if I should do anything about it, but it's interesting. I had vaguely noticed an increase in late arrivals, but from up on the platform from some time before the beginning, you don't really experience it. Sitting in the back, what we call the narthex or entry room before the worship space (or nave, but no one in our church calls it that), I got a very clear picture of the trend. Perhaps more to come on that subject!


And I heard the singing very differently. Congregational singing, whether in contemporary or traditional style worship services, is a much debated topic. How to encourage or enhance singing by the people in the seats. John Wesley complained in the 1700s that the parishioners tended to not sing out very well; Martin Luther included in his reforms reducing the focus on choirs and more popular hymnody. It's still a challenge, quite frankly. Do we just give in and let the choir or praise band or organ or whathaveyou take the lead, or are there ways we can promote more singing from the congregation?


I also got to sneak up and enjoy children's church. The younger ones leave after the children's message in our later service, and have a program in a chapel then an activity room all their own (and kudos to everyone in the church I serve who have improved and beautified that space). I had been told the outlines of how this has been going the last few months, but it was a joy to get to be in the room and join in a bit with their part of the service.


Honestly, I'd done this before under various opportunities, but in this last week to have the whole worship service from the opposite angle of the church experience was a great chance to know what our community looks like and feels like. I commend it to anyone, and don't wait until someone has stabbed you in the throat with needles for an excuse!


What sticks with me most, though, was to just hear the words spoken around me, and the songs sung, and share in the elements as they were passed, and to not have a part in the leadership of the day. I'm used to singing out to help boost the music, being a worship leader in speaking first, and having a voice in the whole affair. It is indeed a very different experience to simply participate, to be entirely receptive in the worship without any active role at all. It's not that it's better or worse to be one or the other, it's that this is the way an overwhelming majority of people experience worship, and I think I needed to be reminded what that aspect of being church is like.


Sometimes, we need to just be. To be in worship. And nothing more. May we all have that opportunity at some point soon!


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he's likely to be talking again all too soon. Tell him about your experiences of silence and listening at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.