We have had at least one wren house in our backyard for many years. Sometimes I remember to bring it inside during the winter months after cleaning it out. Some springs it still has last season’s nest in it when the wrens arrive looking for a place to give birth to and raise their babies. It hangs in a corner of my backyard in a shady space. It is high enough off of the ground and far enough away from the main trunk of the tree in which it hangs to provide a feeling of safety for the wrens. I love to hear their song—it seems impossible for such a big, energetic song to come from such a little body. We can hear it through open windows (and sometimes through closed ones because of its volume) and I hear it when I am working in the garden.
When I am away from the house I hear the regular song. But, when I get close to the house while I am weeding or pruning in my perennial garden, then the sound changes. One or both of the adults will scream at me, trying to frighten me away from their house. This screaming becomes even more intense when there are babies in the house, when the wrens feel most vulnerable about their home and its future. I have never abandoned my work because of this interaction. It does remind me to be careful—as I would be anyway—and not to bump into the house when I stand up from pulling a weed.
I always want to say to the wren—okay, sometimes I actually do say to the wren—“Settle down. I am not your enemy. Who do you think hung this house here in the first place? Who do you think maintains these beautiful surroundings in which you are raising your family?” The wrens see me as a threat when I am nothing of the kind. The only way that I would pose a threat is if I became careless and forgot they were there in the midst of the work I am doing.
Since I began Mid Council work 15 years ago, the wrens have reminded me of congregations, at times, in their relationships with presbyteries. Sometimes congregations see presbyteries as a threat—that the presbytery wants to close the church or that the presbytery wants to send a pastor with whom they will not be happy. Of course, once in a while, presbyteries have created situations for congregations that were not ideal. Often it is because they have not been paying the proper kind of attention or they have not gathered all of the information they need.
But, overwhelmingly, the presbytery is a partner to congregations. It represents the long line of Presbyterians who have nurtured faith in this place and reached out to change the lives of those within the sphere of influence of the congregation. It provides help when a situation arises that is beyond what the members of the church can manage themselves. It upholds the theology and polity on which the congregation began and which its members appreciate. It certainly does not have ill will toward a congregation but wants every congregation to fulfill its call and use its gifts wisely.
The wrens and I will continue to work out our relationship. Even though they become agitated, it will not stop me from hanging up their house each year and providing a welcoming environment in which they can raise their little ones. Our presbytery will continue to work toward the same kind of relationship with our congregations, even when it looks as if we are moving in different directions. In the end, the congregations and the presbytery have the same goal: to use the gifts we have been given in order to create an environment in which we can all work toward the day when all of God’s creatures live in hope.
Susan D. Krummel (Sue)
Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of Chicago