Something strange happened this morning. Actually, it was this afternoon, I think. It was right around noon, anyway.
I noticed as I entered church that something was moving up toward the ceiling. We have one of those raised ceilings that churches often have, and most of the time, we take for granted that it is there. I like the wooden rafters, so I look up there often. Anyway, I noticed movement up there, and spied a sparrow flitting from pillar to post. It kept moving, so I assumed that it was looking for a way out, and thinking, "What have I gotten myself into now?". I pointed it out to Amy, and she said it happens occasionally, that birds fly in and get lost up there. All I could think about was how frightened the poor animal must be, and hope it didn’t decide to take a potty break before it found the exit.
Service went on as usual (great service today, we’ve been having more and more of those lately, I don’t know what is happening), as the sparrow continued to flit about the rafters. Every now and then, it would stop and begin to sing, and then would fly around again. When Neil gave his sermon, the bird spent most of it’s time sitting right above him, or flying around the pulpit. I was, of course, distracted praying that now was not sparrow potty-time.
Alex and Lori began to speak at the beginning of communion, and the sparrow continued to fly around the chapel. It kept singing every now and then. Not chirping, singing. Suddenly, it flew right at Lori, landed on her shoulder, then turned and launched itself right at Neil, who by then was sitting in his customary place in the front pew. I couldn’t see it land, but it stayed where it was. I could see Alex and Lori, taken quite by surprise at the whole thing. We all must have been pretty shocked, because no-one said anything for a second or two. Then, we all realized, the sparrow was sitting on Neil’s lapel. Other than a collective, amazed sigh, not another sound was made by the entire congregation. The sparrow stayed there for several minutes, long enough for Alex and Lori to recover and incorporate the event into their prayer. It was incredible.
I have no idea what it all means, but birds have been my spirit companions all my life. From the cardinals that I used to think were talking to me when we lived in Virginia, to the hawk that I always used to see when I traveled up and down the mountain when I lived in Crestline. I’m sure there is some reasonable scientific explanation for what happened today. Likely, it was frightened when Lori jumped, and flew blindly into Neil. I don’t give a crap what the explanation is.
Despite his modesty on the subject, I believe Neil has been given a gift. Several, in fact. He has the gift of speech, among others. I don’t know him well (need to fix that), I can only go by what I have observed, and my experiences at Metropolitan Community Church, Los Angeles. I can’t begin to count the number of sermons he has given that HAD to be directed right at me, because I was just thinking about that very thing he was talking about just yesterday (or last week, or month, or…whatever). I’ve heard the same from several others, as well. From what I understand he has worked hard to build the congregation since he came to MCCLA. As a result, there is sometimes not nearly enough room for the number of folks coming in on Sunday.
Something special happened today. I saw people amazed. I saw people inspired. When the congregation sang during communion, not a single voice was out of tune. Not one. I saw people holding hands, and each other. I saw tears of joy that had been tears of pain only moments before. I shed a few myself. I saw smiles, and heard the sound of children’s laughter from the throats of adults. Having never been particularly religious, I know we were in the presence of God, whatever God might be.
I believe that the sparrow was intended to be in that space, at that time, on this day. Who knows, or cares, why? I only know that today was a blessed day.