In Hard Times: Chicken feed for the flock

August 06, 2020

The role of chickens during the pandemic?

For Pastor Marylee Sheffer the answer might be, “Inspiration and comfort.” The small flock she keeps at the Napa parsonage do occasionally earn mention in her sermons. But it was the threat of COVID-19 and all its social ramifications which pushed her poultry into the front-lines of pastoral care.

When churches closed, Sheffer began recording a series of encouragement talks from her backyard, accompanied by the soft clucking of her hens. In the first talk, the camera remained entirely upon the chickens as she spoke. But Sheffer’s face appeared thereafter as each day she added a new talk, several times relocating her chicken-yard talks to the church sanctuary and beyond, but keeping the series title, “Chicken Feed for the Flock,”

From the hen-and-chicks quote attributed to Jesus (“How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” Matthew 23:32) to the harsh mysteries of the archetypal pecking order among flightless birds, Sheffer uses the lessons and symbolism hens have to offer, though her insights and observations range well beyond the barnyard to bring encouragement and comfort to her flock during this time of separation and uncertainty.

Pastor Sheffer's Chicken Feed for the Flock recordings are available on YouTube. Click here to access Dried Worms and click here to access Comfort.