At 9:30, my office fills with children. The fairly large room feels full, really, and they move about and interweave, and I wonder which older sister belongs to which younger brother. Five cousins, a set of twins, a little brother and one singleton all wait to learn their parts in our communion liturgy.
I do not know these children, with one exception. One chick belongs to me, really, and I watch her sitting removed but not remote, elegant in wool skirt and sparkly scarf and long-sleeved black skinny tee. Contained, she seems contained, to her own satisfaction.
I try to learn their names, but they swarm about, and they look alike, most of them. I distribute their parts, and we rehearse. Now I begin to see their differences, their distinctiveness, although they insist on moving around the room even as we read.
They follow me across the breezeway into the sanctuary, and I guide them to the pews where they will sit during church. We wait for the choir to finish, wait for our turn to practice our parts in leading worship. Two little boys sit three rows back. I join them. I know they are cousins. I know one has an older sister, and the other has two older sisters, and I search their faces for the resemblances that will solve this brain-teaser.
We move to the Communion table and try the hand-held microphone. They circle the table, stand too close to me and to each other, pass the microphone around, talk too fast or too slowly, and then we try it again. They suggest lining up in order and they learn who comes next by watching, and they get it right.
Most run off to choir practice, then return just as worship begins. They fill two pews, happily, moms and grandparents close behind or far away, beaming.
We sing "Jesus Loves Me," and as the third verse begins, they flock to me, arranging themselves just so, within my wingspread, my beautiful chicks.