As many of you know, I was in Phoenix last weekend attending my friend Jennifer Reddall’s consecration as Bishop of Arizona, and it was truly a blessed event. It was blessed not just because Bishop Reddall is now the first female bishop of Arizona. Or because she is currently one of only ten women who are the primary bishop of one of our 111 dioceses in the Episcopal church. Or because the ceremony included an amazing ritual to create sacred space led by Native American women, one of whom is also an Episcopal priest. Or because the music was a delightful combination of beloved Anglican and Spanish-language hymns (helped by an 80-member choir and a mariachi band, of course). Or because there was a celebratory performance by former “lost boys” from Sudan who have found an Episcopal church to call home in their new land. Or because we were graced with the vibrant presence of our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. It was blessed because of the palpable presence of the Holy Spirit.
For a sermon in her days as rector of Church of the Epiphany here in New York, +Jennifer once did some research on doves as an image of the Holy Spirit. She was perplexed, and perhaps a bit chagrined, to find out what some of you may know already – that doves are essentially the same as pigeons! What a shift in framework that entails, from imagining the Holy Spirit as a beautiful and comparatively rare (at least in most of our lives) dove to seeing it instead in every one of the motley (though certainly beautiful as well) pigeons that flock on our urban streets.
I invite you to pay attention to all the pigeons you encounter this week as a reminder that the Holy Spirit is at work all around you, even in (and especially in) the most mundane aspects and circumstances of our lives! Like the Spirit, pigeons may show up where you least expect them. They might quietly go about their business, scrapping for nourishment, or they may grab your attention by arriving in a rush of beating wings, nearly flying right into you. And they are often particularly present in areas on the margin, that are downtrodden, that don’t seem to be particularly sacred or holy. In a sermon she preached the day after her consecration, +Jennifer said that she had noticed a huge number of pigeons in the border town of Nogales when she visited recently. Seems like a good place for reminders of the Holy Spirit to abound!
Where will you see our NYC pigeons, and the Holy Spirit, at work this week?