Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Notes from my Knapsack 2-20-20

Notes from my Knapsack 2-20-20

Jeff Gill


Is Granville hard to do business in?


It's a long running debate that I'm not going to resolve here, even if they give me the whole darn paper to fill with arguments and counter-arguments.


Is Granville welcoming to business?


The standard rap on Our Fayre Village is that we are not. And as part of our civic structure in a volunteer role, I get to see some of the sausage being made, and even turn the crank from time to time. So while I can't resolve either the full question, or even definitively answer it, I do have some opinions of my own to add.


One way of defending Granville, both the village government and our entwined township trustee structure wrapped around us, is that what we are not is totally sold out to getting business at any cost. I think that's a perfectly fair thing to say, and it's also the most defensible of positions.


Most of us have been through fast growing areas, in Ohio and beyond, where there's clearly a huge amount of economic vitality and a minimal amount of zoning, planning, or even just good taste. A municipality can say to developers "come in and do whatever you want!" and frankly, it will probably work (up to a point).


You'll get long stretches of grey featureless and under-windowed concrete behemoths, used for factory or warehouse functions, and re-purposeable to pretty much nothing once the original use is done and gone. You'll get a gravel pit next to a subdivision of zero-lot-line cookie cutter homes on cautiously swooping non-linear streets for maximal utilization. And next to that, a [insert your worst nightmare here].


It's that last point, the one in brackets I'm letting you fill in yourself, that's where we turn to where the questions come in. Your worst nightmare is probably some other village resident's fondest hope. I've long heard of how Granville fears fast food chain intrusions and big box retail. So I know there are many who dread the idea of a drive-up window and arches of gold, but I know a fair number of younger people who have said in my earshot "I wish this town had a [insert your worst nightmare but their favorite burger joint here]."


That's one of the things we can't solve in a short essay, whether or not fast food is Satan's minion or an angelic arrival in our quondam paradise. But short of industrial-level retail with giant neon signs and a row of idling SUVs waiting for their order in a bag, are we doing as well as we can to facilitate, well, non-massive retail? Non-fast but good and sometimes even quickish food? Or is our desire to keep out one type of economic Canada geese (the ones that leave droppings everywhere) actually blocking the entry of another goose or two that might lay golden eggs? Does blocking chains in Granville mean we end up putting chains on any business storefront launch?

I do think sometimes prospective business interests protest too much. If you get used to places where they give away the farm and drop all the fences to let you roam where you will, even a little herding can feel like getting locked into the chute. Not saying "we'll do whatever you want" is not the same as saying "we're not going to let you do anything."


Having said that, I hope we can continue looking at our comprehensive plan, our codified ordinances, our internal processes in general, to make sure that we're making welcome and fully facilitating more economic actors on the stage that is our city. We're a small city and technically not even that, but a small city is what we're becoming in Granville.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he has served on the village Board of Zoning and Building Appeals for many years. Tell him how we can help build and be appealing in Granville at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Faith Works 2-15-20

Faith Works 2-15-20

Jeff Gill


Public work in spiritual practice



When you have a standard, repeated, recurring pattern of words and speech in a public event, you have a liturgy of sorts.


Liturgy is one of those churchy terms that churches sometimes try to avoid using, but it really has a place beyond worship settings.


"I'll go tally the votes" and "Jeff, the tribe has spoken" are part of a liturgy on "Survivor." Many reality TV shows have an interesting liturgical element to their stock phrases, including the now infamous "You're fired" from "The Apprentice," but also the steps in the boardroom leading up to that line.


And in church, even for non-attenders, some of our lines have seeped back out into the culture. If you say "The Lord be with you" there are quite a few strangers who will respond "And also with you," even though in certain settings that response has been gently altered to "And with your spirit." Liturgy is both timeless, and ever changing as language and elements of public worship change.


The word comes from Greek, basically, "leitourgia" which means "public service" or "public working." Some have tried to bend the etymology into "the work of the people," and while I think that's a bit of a stretch, there's certainly the clear implication of a public act, not a private piece of work, where the audience or congregation or participants have their place in the public working of worship as well.


Liturgy holds a very odd relationship to the "worship wars" we've been discussing here. In one sense, liturgical worship is seen as basically identical to traditional worship, and is held in contrast to so-called contemporary worship, which is generally not so liturgical.


Or is it?


I've been to enough contemporary Christian services to know that even in its radical informality, there tends to be a certain pattern to the countdown timer on the screens, the opening songs, usually three of them, the prayer to transition to announcements and/or offering, the dismissal of the kids to children's church and the preacher's own templates for getting into the text for the day, making their points, and coming to a close often with the prefatory words "as the praise team makes their way back up onto the stage" for a final song.


When Jeff Probst says "Stay tuned for scenes from our next episode" he's not invoking God or holy insights, but he is giving structure to the public expression of what he's working on, so as listener/participants we know where we are, and our own reactions can be both shaped by the program and freed to reflect on our own thoughts about winning, losing, and surviving.


In the same way, liturgy for a faith community gathering can have elements that are ancient and sacred, or as tedious and typical as "if you'll look at the announcements on the back of the bulletin…" Both sorts of formalized, ritualized speaking help us know where we are, shape the gathered worshipers in some ways but also free up our preoccupations to do our own reflection on what's happening in this "public service."


I have been powerfully shaped in the growth and depth of my personal faith in Jesus Christ by the forms and norms of liturgical worship. I think there's a unique formative power to using words that, in T.S. Eliot's words from "Little Gidding" from "Four Quartets," are what have been said before in certain places elsewhere and here before, "Where prayer has been valid." That very liturgically grounded poem goes on to say "And prayer is more/Than an order of words, the conscious occupation/Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying."

Part of what I was trying to address last week was my dismay at the fact that those who love liturgy too often, I believe, run down the spontaneous and impromptu spirituality of contemporary styles of worship assembly – and those who find their spiritual strength built up by contemporary informality of worship too often mock and condemn liturgical worship as "empty of intention" and lacking in true personal meaning.


I would lift up that both approaches have a place and a value. I know that to some there is an absolute spiritual necessity to worshiping according to one particular set of words and forms. I've never been convinced of the rightness of any single liturgy in my own spiritual walk, but I am certain as a minister that you should be mindful of the liturgies you are using, whether you've been aware of the patterns you've fallen into or not! Because in public worship, there's always a liturgy at work somewhere.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he's probably not done on this subject, but you knew that. Tell him what you've wondered about worship at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.