Search for justice and help the oppressed! Protect those who are orphaned and plead the case of those who are widowed! ~ Isaiah 2:17
‘Tis the season when crows gather in huge numbers. If you have a good, high vantage point you can watch a stream of black birds head toward the particular location where hundreds of birds roost together for the night. That location often changes from year to year and even within the same season. Last year, here in Waterville, it was the woods next to the Interstate near the Home Depot and Walmart. This year, it appears to be a little ways down on Main Street across from the McDonald’s. I say “appears” because when I noticed the roost last week, it was not quite yet dusk. I may have been seeing a group gathering before joining the final group. If you pay close attention beginning in the late afternoon you will notice a few crows gather here and there. Eventually, groups start joining so that a half dozen, becomes a dozen, becomes dozens, becomes a hundred, becomes hundreds, becomes a thousand. The Waterville roost is likely a couple thousand birds.
This year’s newly hatched crows are experiencing this phenomenon for the first time. It must be interesting to see so many of your own kind after only knowing your immediate and extended family living on the territory unique to your small group. In a real way, experiencing the winter roost is learning what it means to be a crow. As a species, they are both highly intelligent and very social. As a matter of fact, a sign of their intelligence is their ability to cooperate with the very individuals that had been competitors. As resources get scarcer after the abundance of summer, it is definitely smart to work together for the common good. A young crow experiencing this in their first winter may not have a firm grasp on that, but with repetition it will become a part of their identity.
We may not realize that we are doing the same thing when we practice ritual. Even when the impact is more symbolic than pragmatic, the practice is teaching us our meaning. In fact, when the outcome is inconsequential, we should expect that the ritual is being used to teach us about our identity. When we engage in worship we are acknowledging being and belong that is greater than our individuality. As we conceive wider and wider webs of connectivity and belonging we are discerning our greater purpose.
Prayer: Ingathering God, remind us in our practices that as we gather more closely with others, we are also drawing closer to you. Amen.