Have you ever wondered how some television preachers can deliver a lengthy sermon without ever looking at notes or at a teleprompter? You would think they are assisted by some heavenly or divine intervention. How do they memorize every word and every sentence? And do it week after week? I’m thinking of Pastor Hughes of Church of the Rock. What about rapid-fire speakers who don’t proclaim a religious message? How do they do it?
I was fascinated listening to keynote speaker Doug Griffiths at the annual general meeting of the OFA in November. He delivered a stimulating and entertaining speech on 13 Ways to Kill Your Community, focusing on the importance of building communities from within. He was allotted 90 minutes and went 10 minutes overtime talking non-stop without looking at notes or sipping water. He didn’t stand at a podium, but walked in front of the stage by the audience. He could have gone longer except Ernie Hardeman, Ontario’s Agriculture Minister, was sitting in the wings and was the next speaker. When Hardeman came to the podium he said he was in awe how the previous speaker performed. I’m sure all 300 people in the room were in awe.
Griffiths is a former school teacher and a former member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. He was a candidate for the leadership of the PC Party in 2011. He is the president and CEO of 13 Ways, Inc. a company he founded to provide consultation to struggling North American communities.
Griffiths’s number one point of his 13 Ways to Kill Your Community was forgetting about the importance of good water and pointed out what happened in Walkerton. Many of his points reflect building walls, rejecting change, and staying in the past. Here are the 13 points:
1. Forget the water, both the quality
2. Don’t attract business, especially
the ones that will compete with you.
3. Don’t engage youth.
4. Deceive yourself.
5. Shop elsewhere
6. Don’t paint
7. Don’t co-operate
8. Live in the past
9. Shut out the seniors
10. Reject everything new
11. Ignore outsiders
12. Grow complacent
13. Don’t take responsibility
The 13 Ways to Kill Your Community could also apply to your farm if you don’t want to change with the times. How many farmers do you know who will trade in their truck every two or three years so they drive the latest and finest truck on the market, but they still have barns and sheds from the horse-and-buggy era? They wouldn’t think of tearing down the old dilapidated buildings and putting up something useful for today.
Last summer I chatted with a farmer my age who said he hoped his son or a grandson would someday take over the farm and keep it in the family name. Here was a farmer with some beef cattle who farmed almost the same as his father did. The house was big and from the early 1900s. The buildings were from the same era and sagging sheds sat there, full of junk. The man drove a new model truck but the tractors and machinery were all old. He hadn’t done much to spruce up the place during his lifetime of farming. Yet he hoped his son or a grandson would take over the farm. Had the man focused on updating the farm he might be able to entice his son or a grandson to take it over. Why not tear down a drafty house and build a modern bungalow? Old rambling wooden barns that have earned their keep should have been replaced with a modern structure years ago when building costs were still affordable for beef farmers.
Churches that won’t make changes are on the way out. Many have already closed. There are still some rural churches that do not have running water in their church. It’s been that way since the church was built and there’s no way they’re going to heat the church all winter just to keep it frost-free for the water. And what about the churches with a small, aging membership that won’t amalgamate with neighbouring churches of the same faith? Parishioners won’t go to another church farther away because they’ve gone to “their” church all their life. They, too, might be the ones who Doug has been talking about on his lecture circuit.
Maynard van der Galien is a Renfrew-area farmer who turns 70 this month and has been writing columns for 32 years.