Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Notes from my Knapsack 9-26-19

Notes from my Knapsack 9-26-19

Jeff Gill


So much music but give me more



Granville has a stellar reputation around education, and Greek Revival architecture, and general atmospheric charm, but I'm not sure we're as well known for music as we should be.


Like so many of you, I was fascinated by the PBS series "Country Music" by Ken Burns and his creative team, tracing the intertwining of African and European instruments and styles into the culture of the American South and the mixing of ethnicities and technologies to produce gospel music, western styles, bluegrass, Texas swing, and so much more, all under the overarching label of country. The hillbilly, honky tonk narrative of country doesn't have deep roots in Our Fayre Village, but that same complexity and mysteriously intertwining storyline does touch down along Broadway.


There's a few ancient instruments at the Granville Historical Society showing the musical aspirations of the 1805 settlers, and the earlier Welsh pioneers loved their vocal assemblies, the "eisteddfod" gatherings that persist into the present day. We've got precious historical photographs of a high school marching band around 1900, and tales of the "Halfway House" next to the Dugway where more elemental music ruled the nights.


We've got twenty years now of the HotLicks Bluesfest right downtown, and newly arrived in the area the Ohiolina Music Festival last weekend at Infirmary Mound Park just south of the village.


My first encounter with Granville's music scene was on a Tuesday morning in Slayter up on the Denison campus, many years ago, and that region-wide gathering of bluegrass musicians just jamming around with each other, and visitors invited to sing along, softly or with vigor as the case may be. Now, Denison has had a bluegrass concentration to major in for their students for a decade, and their Bluegrass Ensemble plays anywhere from festivals on the road to the Candlelight Christmas Walking Tour on Broadway.


Denison supports both campus and community in participation with their choruses and other musical ensembles; you can also find soloists and bands playing in restaurants along the village streets and at the Granville Inn, with national reputations or local reknown. The high school offers both bands and choirs, an orchestra and a fair number of individual acts both in house and out around the community.


This is a community that loves music. We show up, even when thunderstorms threaten, for "Concerts on the Green," once on the lower campus of the college and now out behind the Bryn Du Mansion, thanks to our Granville Recreation District.


But there will be a return, now that the Eisner Center construction is completed, at least for this autumn, with a special "Fall Concert on the Green" on Saturday, October 5th at 5:00 PM. On the Fine Arts Quad along West Broadway, the lower campus of Denison, we'll get to hear "Rock This Town" which is bringing us their take on the swing revival, emulating the Brian Setzer Orchestra. 


So much music. The holiday concerts at Granville High School literally sell out, where so many schools and communities work to just get a decent audience for their kids. We love our local musicians more than we do the ones who come from far away, and the Vail Series regularly fills Swasey Chapel for globally significant artists.


This is a music loving community, and the soundtrack of our village is complex and various: one of the many reasons I love it here.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he has his own set list that plays in his head even without earphones. Tell him your favorite music at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Faith Works 9-21-19

Faith Works 9-21-19

Jeff Gill


What we've lost, what we've gained



Sometimes when I start writing one of these I end up with a piece that simply doesn't fit into the usual newspaper column space.


I can try to carve it into pieces that do work in this context, trim it back to a more workable length, or just repurpose it for another setting.


This reflection is an attempt to have my cake and eat it, too; a highlight reel of a series of thoughts I've had as I look ahead, for my own congregation where I attend and worship, for Christian church groups in general, and I believe for people of faith or seekers who want to come together under whatever banner. I'm likely to write more about these individual items in time, but overall, these are subjects which I see as helping us understand what's going on with what's often mockingly called "organized religion." The phrase "spiritual but not religious" has a scholarship all its own, but while I honor the intention behind such beliefs, I would not be a parish minister if I didn't think that having a religious affiliation has a certain value of its own.


The logo or nameplate or even to some degree the doctrine may not matter quite as much as simply prioritizing working together with others, versus the individual, private pursuit of spiritual understanding. If for you only the personal and private sense of faith is important, what follows will not seem of any consequence, I'm sure.


When it comes to church life, we've lost a number of things that I believe we had come to take for granted, which is why we might be a bit myopic about how much we're losing. Membership, for starters. People today do not "like" membership in organizations. Not that long ago becoming a member meant you were becoming something; ditto even smaller commitments like newspaper subscriptions or buying series tickets.


And while you might say "well, season tickets are still popular" the news from Columbus, as well as NFL stadiums and MLB ballparks is that they are not. Which takes us from membership to attendance. "Perfect attendance" used to be a very big thing, and now it's actually seen as somewhat unhealthy (don't come to work or school or church when you're sick, okay?). But in general, consistent attendance is simply less valued.


Marriage is no longer a central social norm. I could preach or plead or rant, but I'm just observing right now. Expansion of marriage laws aside, the institution is delayed, deferred, and often just plain avoided entirely. Divorce is down, but much of that is because the wedding never took place in the first case.


As I've written about previously, I don't think church losses around young adults are due as much to changes in church life as much as what we haven't adapted to: our historic pattern is that young adults would often step away from church for a while, in high school or college, but return to get married and as they started a family. The gap of absence was a couple of years. Now, with average age of first marriages creeping up towards 30, and children later, too, the gap is so wide as to be a chasm.


Plus, church weddings are increasingly… unusual. Even churched folk are overwhelmingly choosing non-church locations when they do marry, and many venues require you use their officiant. Another place to reconnect, cut off.


Likewise with funerals, a social location where often those who had walked away from faith and church might reconnect, and even re-enter. You may have noticed, and I surely have, that "no services will be held" is more common; what's hard for me is when I know the deceased wanted a funeral, but the surviving adult relatives are all unchurched and say no. And non-traditional locations and settings for "farewells" or "celebrations of life" are increasingly popular, with funeral homes adapting to this demand; the acceptance of cremation making all kinds of options possible that didn't exist before, and most of them don't require a church or clergymember.


You can easily imagine how I could write a column on each of those four shifts; singing, reading, summer schedules, sacred spaces, Sundays themselves could all represent additional elements of what we've lost. But my thinking is not entirely mournful, and I'd like to just leave these thoughts as placeholders, and turn next towards what we've gained, and how both sets of shifts tell us something about the future we're making for faith, and for church.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he likes to take the long view sometimes, which means when he says "new" it might mean 100 years old. Tell him about shifts you've noticed in church life at knapsack77@gmail.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.