I consulted with bird loving friends and they assured me immediately that it was the change of diet. The birds were boycotting the wild bird seed mix. I paid a bit more at the local grain and feed store and refilled the feeder with Black Oil Sunflower seeds and the birds are back. It took all of about 2 hours before they returned to the feeder. The squirrels have returned.
At about the same time I listened to a podcast, an interview with an evangelical pastor of a church in Fort Smith, Arkansas. His story was disturbing and heartbreaking. He was leaving his congregation after a long period of what he had believed was a successful ministry among his people. The reason being that his congregation was more influenced by Fox News than by his preaching of the gospel. The virulent rhetoric of the far right had taken root in his congregation and they could no longer hear the prophetic word from the pulpit. He quoted another pastor saying "I get them for one hour on Sunday, Fox gets them for 10 hours a week."
He had been trying to feed them the Black Oil Sunflower Seed but they chose the wildbird seed mix instead. It is not likely that they will return to the "feeder."
Meanwhile, I heard in conversation with another pastor that her congregation has begun the disaffiliation process to separate from their denomination over the ambiguous and ambivalent wording in church law that continues to insist that "homosexuality is incompatiblewith Christian teaching." Then a letter arrived from a cousin in North Carolina communicating that her church is in the same process. Some 41 churches of the same denomination in Texas are pursuing the same course. In each case, the wild bird seed mix is not acceptable and they are seeking elswhere for their spiritual nourishment.
It is not likely that these birds will return to the feeder. Just as the birds at my feeder knew enough to look elsewhere for better food, church parishioners are seeking better nourishment through the truth of the gospel than they can find within their own denomination. For them, the inclusive love and compassion and the call to seek justice and pursue it that reverberates through the entire Bible is the Black Oil Sunflower seed of life.
Our little congregation is considered to be a "thriving congregation" when so many others are foundering on disagreement about how to be the church in the world. I can't help but think that the commitment to "extravagant welcome and heartfelt service to one another, to the community and to the world" may be the answer. We literally have to duck under the rainbow flag in order to enter the sanctuary. The preaching centers on learning to live as "beloved community." Generous servings of Black Oil Sunflower Seed.