It’s been fascinating to see who stops by for a visit.
I’ve seen cardinals, robins, wrens, and just this morning, a vibrantly colored blue jay paid us a visit. I’m pretty sure we had a woodpecker a couple of days back.
I believe the birds attracted to a feeder come depending on the seed set out. So it amazes me that so many different birds find our feeder satisfactory Could be they’re just not that picky, but I like to think it means our feeder has a bit of something for lots of different birds.
What really gets me is the birds I don’t even recognize. I don’t see them flying around the house. I haven’t spotted them in some nearby tree. They are strange birds. They aren’t known. And often they are the most interesting.
These strange birds have unique markings and coloration. They come in different sizes. They sometimes come alone, but just as often I’ve seen a strange bird hanging with some of its buddies.
Admittedly I’m not much of a birder (is that even the correct term for folk who make a hobby of watching birds?). I probably should know more of the birds who frequent the feeder. It’s very likely they only appear strange to me. They could be very common to those who know more about such things.
So as I’m watching the feeder, I’m thinking of it as an avian third place. A hangout that exists outside of their normal places to forage and gather food or to rest for the evening Eventually the feeder will become an important part of their lives. It may become a place where new mates are met, where territory disputes are resolved, where bird lore is shared and passed along. I might be stretching on this last one, but if I were a bird, I’d want bird lore to share.
In almost every way I start seeing the feeder as a place that functions a bit like my church.
A gathering place. A place to be fed. A place to meet with others…some just like us and others who seem strange and different. Perhaps even a place where our story is rehearsed and dispersed.
Of course this would be to make a grave error in understanding the nature of church.
The church is not a place or a destination. The church is a people, a movement. A building is a facility designed to facilitate (see what I did there?) relationship. Like a bird feeder, our facilitates can be gathering places, but they are not the end. There aren’t any birds building nests or permanent dwellings on the roof of my feeder. That would just be silly!
Further, our churches do not exist solely to feed those who fly by. Churches are called to take the food out into the world. More a food truck than a five-star dining destination. Okay, I’m mixing metaphors here, so let me come back to the bird feeder. The feeder doesn’t move. It’s fixed on a pole. If you’re a bird, you have to come get the food. You have to hope the humans filled it up, you have to fight or wait for food. Our churches shouldn’t look anything like a bird feeder when it comes to sharing what we have.
Now in one important way we should be just like my seed dispenser. We should be a people who welcome the stranger, the different, the unique. Ours should be a movement that defies easy definition. We aren’t just a bunch of Robins or Blue Jays. We are Finches and Sparrows and if we’re really bold, an Eagle or two. Our story is a story for all. We should share the story as freely as my feeder shared seed. It’s easy to get to. It’s easy to take with you.
So what do you think about church as bird feeder? Fit your experience? Challenge your view? Have something to add or correct or challenge?
There’s room for you and your thoughts at the feeder. Let’s hear your song.
Life is better together,