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In a vast, blazingly bright atrium, crowds of church angels mill about, carrying tote bags emblazoned with the AngelPAC logo. A huge banner draped across the entrance to the auditorium reads “Angel Protectors in Action for Change: Nth Annual Symposium.”

Beneath the banner, near the coffee kiosk, two angels stand together. The Angel of the Church in Grand Rapids scrolls casually through the ethereal conference agenda, the program text seemingly glowing in midair.

“OK, where to next?”  

The other angel—the Angel of the Church in Holland—seems nervous, shifting from one foot to the other and twittering their wings. “Well, how much time do we have before the morning plenary? And what’s the plenary about again?”

“Uh… let’s see. It’s called ‘Is the End Time Here and Why Can’t We Know?’ Oooo that sounds good. Features the big cheese, Michael. OK, we’ve got some time yet before that. Wanna go see the Doomsday Trumpet Ensemble?”

“Oof. I don’t know if I can handle that.” Holland continues to fidget and glance about.

“What’s the matter with you? You seem nervous!” GR pauses to take a good look at Holland, noting the twittery wings and halo slightly askew.   

“Well, aren’t you?”

“Why would I be nervous?” GR replies smoothly. “The PAC conference is the most fun we have all year—other than occasionally dropping in on a human and scaring them half to death. Besides, we’re not presenting or anything.”

Holland offers a grumpy harrumph. “Fine. What’s on for the afternoon?”

GR scrolls through the program in midair. “Well, let’s see. We’ve got ‘Scolding 2.0: Getting Your Church to Listen Using New Social Media.’ There’s a whole session on TikTok content creating, believe it or not. Tomorrow afternoon we have a series of dragon combat classes. Gabriel is doing the noon plenary tomorrow—ugh, Gabriel always goes on and on. Here’s a session called ‘Was Covid Poured Out from a Bowl of Wrath?’ Good grief.”

GR pauses, sips some honey-infused coffee, then continues. “Oh, how about this one for later today? The Angel of the Church at Waco is giving a talk called ‘How to Sound the Alarm Before #churchtoo Tears You Apart, Too.’”

“Ouch, that sounds rough.”

“Yeah, Waco is pretty traumatized, I hear.” GR keeps scrolling. “Or how about this: ‘Exvangelicals, Nones, and Feisty Nuns: Is this a New Reformation?’ Wow, that sounds amazing! I’m putting that in our schedule.”

“Yeah, sure.” Holland seems distracted, watching the other angels walk past. “Hey! Look! There’s Montreat and Minneapolis! Hey, wait up, you two!”

Limited edition tote bag free with conference registration!

Montreat and Minneapolis detour from their path across the atrium and head over to chat.

“Hey, long time!” “Nice to see you!” The four angels attempt to hug each other, an awkward affair what with the wings and haloes.

Once the four untangle themselves, Montreat turns abruptly serious. “So, I hear your churches are splitting over the whole sexuality thing.”

Clearly, this is precisely the conversation Holland has been dreading. Meanwhile, GR stands up straighter, looking defensive.

“Well, that’s not for sure!” GR insists. “We don’t know that for sure yet!”

“Uh hunh,” says Minneapolis skeptically. “Listen”—Montreat and Minneapolis lean in closer—“we’ve been through it. You two will be OK. Montreat and I are here to tell you: sometimes things get a lot better after the split.”

GR and Holland say nothing. Everyone gets pensive for a moment.

“Well, nice to see you two! Gotta go!” Minneapolis and Montreat break the huddle, gather their tote bags again, and offer friendly waves. “Off to the pop-up spa for our wing-wax appointments!”

After they go, GR and Holland need to sit down. They silently head over to a poofy, cloud-like sofa nearby.

Holland speaks first. “Easy for them to say. Their churches are huge! Ours are so tiny.” A moment of quiet. “Are you worried about that sexuality report coming up for you this summer?”

“Yup.”

Holland peers down at their daintily wing-covered feet. “It just…. it hurts. For me, it hasn’t felt like just a split. It’s been more like… I don’t know. Shattering.”

“Yup. Schism hurts. I’ve been through it before. Many times. Even with you, buddy. Remember? The humans thought those issues were so important at the time. Some of the humans meant well.”

“Some of them.”

GR looks over at Holland, now hunched with droopy wings, haloed head in hands. “Listen, Hol. What’s happening is not our fault. Our job is to encourage and scold. No one blames us for all the rancor and foolishness of the humans. If they hear, they hear. If they don’t, they don’t. We just do our job and the rest is up to the Holy One.”

“I know,” whispers Holland. “But what happens if our churches just… dissolve?”

“Well, I suppose we get reassigned. It’s happened before. Since the beginning.”

“Yeah.” Now both the angels droop into the comforting poofs of the cloudy sofa.

“And of course, this whole sexuality kerfuffle is weird for us, since we don’t even have gender!” GR smirks, and Holland looks up, half smiling for the first time all morning.

“Look, let’s put our troubles in perspective and focus on something else, OK?” With a wave of the hand, GR makes the conference program appear again in midair. “The evening plenary looks really good: ‘Is Lukewarm So Bad After All: Facing the Reality of Climate Change.’”

Holland bolts upright and points: “Oh my divine—look! It’s the Angel of the Church of Kyiv!”

“Whoa.” GR and Holland watch in awe as the Kyiv passes by, looking a little tattered, but followed by an entourage of supporters.

That puts it all in perspective, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah.” The two angels share a moment of respectful silence.

Finally, Holland rises from the cloud-sofa looking newly resolved. “Hey, could we pop into the lampstand shop sometime today? I want to get one of those new extra-bright cordless models.”

Note: The Reformed Journal is not responsible for angel opinions, stated or implied.

Image credits: guardianangelskc.org and crosswalk.com, alt. Ron Rienstra

Debra Rienstra

I am a writer and literature professor, teaching early British literature and creative writing at Calvin University, where I have been on the faculty since 1996. Born and bred in the Reformed tradition, I’ve been unable to resist writing four books about theological topics: beware the writer doing theology without a license. Besides the books, I’ve written well over two hundred essays for The Twelve as well as numerous articles, poems, and reviews in popular and scholarly contexts. I have a B.A. from the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and a M.A. and Ph.D. from Rutgers. I am married to Rev. Ron Rienstra, and together we have three grown children. Besides reading and writing, I love classical music, science fiction, fussing in the yard, hiking, and teaching myself useful skills like plant identification and—maybe someday—drywall repair.

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