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When a chicken went to church, the feathers flew

One spring, when I taught a Sunday school class of a dozen first-graders, an idea suddenly surfaced on how to dispel the kids’ myth that rabbits lay colored eggs at Easter.

The idea came when I discovered my tiny bantam hen, Sweet Adoline ,nicknamed Addy, had become “broody,” meaning - in chicken thinking - “I want to be a mother.”

Now, as every poultry owner knows, hen eggs take 21 days of constant warmth to hatch, and the next day, Sunday, was exactly three weeks before Easter. I’d take Addy to class! Of course I worried how the pastor might react at seeing a chicken at church, but Jesus himself had said in Matthew 23: “How often have I longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.”

So the next morning I gathered a dozen fresh eggs, carefully placed them in a carton, plunked tame Addy into a straw-bedded box, and drove both boxes to the Sunday school wing, which was separate from the sanctuary part of the church itself,

When the children filed into class, they were curious why a box with air holes was on a table in front. I merely said, “Guess what’s inside?”

The first said, “Rabbit.” Another, “A kitten.” “A puppy.” Nobody said, “A hen.”

I told them, “Come slowly and look.” They did, taking turns stroking Addy’s silky feathers. Next I opened the other carton said, “Here are 12 eggs - one for each of you. You can take yours home and have it for breakfast tomorrow. Or… you can put it under Addy to sit on for three weeks and, on Easter, a real, live, baby chick will come out of the shell!”

Not one child took his egg home.

I brought Addy and her eggs back the following two Sundays to reassure the kids she still was patiently waiting for babies. During class the week before Easter, I told the children, “Be sure to be here next Sunday to see the surprise!”

On Easter morning the church parking lot was crammed; the kids had told their parents and friends about the expectant hen. As I carried the box through the crowd, an adult shouted, “Is that Addy?” Another, “Did the eggs hatch?”

Even the pastor came to check out the commotion. I was embarrassed but told him, “I just wanted the children to see eggs hatch.”

Instead of admonishing me, he grinned, then asked, “Would you bring her onto the stage and show everyone? It’ll be a good illustration for my morning message, ‘New Life at Easter.’”

The children excitedly followed me into the sanctuary and plopped cross-legged on the stage in front of the whole congregation. I removed the lid. Everyone was in awe as I picked up six wobbly, downy chicks with black BB-like eyes.

Three were already fluffy as dandelion down; the other three still wet from their shells. I gently lifted two eggs - cracked in half - with babies still in their half-shells in fetal positions. Ditto with the remaining four eggs showing tiny holes with miniature beaks peeking through.

This happened a decade ago, but those who were there then still say, “I remember that Easter when chickens came to church.

Isabel Torrey is a King City resident and long-time columnist.