During COVID 2020, the building in which the Church gathers each Sunday underwent a fair bit of repair work. The ‘unstable’ bell tower was completely re-built, and the roof has been completed re-slated in accordance with Heritage expectations.
It certainly all looks very nice now, but the congregation has never been very big on pouring money into ‘worship’ type edifices – which is why we invested so much into restoring the ‘Drop In’ and creating a better and safer place for participants. A place that could feel like home. Where people could hear the sound of their own name on someone else’s lips. Where people could find a welcome, something to eat and things to do. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before the doors are thrown open and community-life can begin again.
The other morning, I was sitting on the bench out the front, beside the patch of lawn, with the sun warming my face, drinking my coffee. I shut my eyes and just bathed in the soft warmth of an Autumn day. My empty muffin bag was on the bench beside me, and I could hear the unmistakable sound of a bird pecking at it. I didn’t move and opened my eyes to watch a silver blue pigeon with a beautiful purple neck bravely but cautiously picking up crumbs while others stood around looking up at the bench. Clearly, not quite as brave as the one less than a foot from my hip. Then I started taking in the full ‘vision’ of what was unfolding on the lawn in front of and around me.
There were about 50 birds. Mostly pigeons of all colours and sizes. A couple of Maggies were striding around like they owned the place. A few sparrows darted away and back again several times. You know what sparrows are like – never in one place for very long. Always looking for opportunity. A couple of Noisy Mina’s kept diving down from the banksia tree. They can be very disruptive. But a couple of things really held my attention. A good number of the birds, and not just pigeons, were injured in some way. Missing a leg or a claw. A bent wing. A crooked beak. A damaged eye. Urban life can be rough – clearly. But they were all getting along fine. No squabbling like you see among seagulls. All taking advantage of a few crumbs and other things left on the lawn by previous ‘sitters on the bench’ or passers-by. Not much nourishment though in fag ends, cork-filters, plastic tubs and beer cans.
I’d not seen so many pigeons on the ground before and then it dawned on me. Our renovations had effectively removed their nesting and roosting places. The area was their ‘local community’, they knew the place but we had inadvertently left them homeless.
Can’t do much about homeless birds ( they are pretty good at finding new homes) but I am so glad that the Engagement Hub will be opening again soon.
Many participants have stayed in touch with staff and each other during a very challenging year.
No doubt, others will start to come ‘home’ now and find again what COVID took away – a place of welcome, warmth and awful coffee.