Impeccable pigeon captivates 79th General Convention with real, digital presence

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted Jul 8, 2018
General Convention pigeon

The General Convention Pigeon is sported on the House of Deputies floor in this photo tweeted by Rev. Diana L. Wilcox.

[Episcopal News Service –Austin, Texas] It arrived early to the 79th General Convention and soon was swooping through the House of Deputies and strutting through the neighboring Exhibit Hall.

At times it is elegant trickster; at others it is a small scavenger.

It’s the General Convention Pigeon.

On July 7, the pigeon attempted to join debate in the House of Deputies, stepping to the counter at Microphone 2. Apparently, it was not aware that those wishing to be recognized by the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, the deputies’ president, need to insert their “smart cards” into their voting devices to enter the queue of debaters.

It has no such equipment because it has not acquired the proper credential. It was reportedly wandering around in the convention registration area later on July 7, perhaps attempting to secure official permission.

Still, it is the only creature with full access to the house without the needed red credential holder around its neck. This seems to be attributable to its powers of propulsion.

However, it has acquired something potentially much more valuable than #GC79 credentials: the Twitter handle @gc79pigeon and, as of the writing of this story, 608 followers. (The bird follows six other Twitter accounts, including @episcopal_news.)

General Convention Pigeon, who claims to be a “Nested Episcopalian” similar to the human designation of “Cradle Episcopalian,” appears to be much gentler than Austin’s grackles, which have been dive bombing people on foot and on bicycles, sometimes landing on their heads (including this reporter’s).

In an interview with Episcopal News Service during July 7 and 8 (the bird is busy) via Twitter direct message, @gc79pigeon said it hopes it is “part of the movement of the spirit that brings something to keep people relaxed, laughing, and in good spirits when things get tense.”

The bird cited the Diocese of Fort Worth’s Deputy Bingo and a number of Flat Jesus cutouts making their way around the Exhibit Hall. The fact that the deputies are aflutter over the General Convention Pigeon is reminiscent of the house’s Bonnie Ball game during the 77th General Convention in 2012.

Asked by ENS if it had to fly a long way to get to #GC79, the bird reported having flown 1,080 miles from Salt Lake City, the site of the 78th General Convention in 2015. “Good workout,” @gc79pigeon noted.

The bird’s sense of the passage of time is apparently unlike that of humans. During the interview, it professed to be young. “I’ve been an Episcopalian since I was a chick,” it pecked. “Now, given that was only a few months ago, that’s nowhere near the experience of everyone gathered at General Convention. But, when measured in bird years? Yes. Nested Episcopalian.”

The bird appears also to be visiting members of its extended family.

Other pigeons roost in the hall now occupied by the House of Deputies. While the convention was loading into the space, the resident birds made no attempt to leave. On the rare occasions when the deputies are silent, the faint sound of baby pigeons can be heard.

“There are plenty of fellow pigeons around the convention center,” the bird advised ENS. “Don’t focus on which one I am. A single pigeon with a platform has a duty to speak for all pigeonkind.”

Some of the resident pigeons appear to be fouler than the well-mannered @gc79pigeon fowl. They roost high in the rafters above the House of Deputies dais, and at times, rather than flying to the restrooms, some have been “commenting” on a table set up precariously close to the equipment that runs the deputies’ voting system.

“As to who pooped on the voting table — you might think that we are responsible. But I couldn’t possibly comment,” General Convention Pigeon messaged via Twitter on July 8 after flying to Taylor, Texas, and back, for a convention prayer service outside the T. Don Hutto Residential Center.

Although well-mannered and concerned about social justice issues, @gc79pigeon can be a bit cheeky.

General Convention Pigeon also loves to swan around the Exhibit Hall.

The bird reported that the best swag it has plucked out of the Exhibit Hall are some of the PopSockets, collapsible grips for cellphones that can double as a stand, that some exhibitors are offering. “Definitely makes pecking at a keyboard with a beak way easier,” it said.

The pigeon has been seen grazing in the House of Deputies for dropped snack food and the like. “For me, a stale donut on the floor was the true delicacy,” the bird revealed. In one of its tweets it asked for stale crullers or glazed donuts.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry gave General Convention Pigeon a shout-out during his sermon at the convention revival.

Yet, even as it has gained a certain amount of notoriety, @gc79pigeon knows where it ranks in the #GC79 stardom hierarchy. “I have NOTHING on Dinorah,” the humble pigeon tweeted, praising Curry’s interpreter Dinorah Padro.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is the Episcopal News Service’s senior editor and reporter.


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Comments (3)

  1. Rev. Dr. James Hargis says:

    Most edifying, entertaining, and theologocally profound reflection coming out of GENCON 79, so far! Nominate that pigeon for Episcopal papacy! Hey, he/she already has wings of angels.

  2. John Williamson says:

    When Presiding Bishop Curry visited Trinity Cathedral, Omaha, in January, a bat was circling the nave during the PB’s sermon. The weather was too cold for the bat to stay in the belfry.

  3. The Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton, C2 Deputy Diocese of Olympia says:

    Technically, no difference exists between the pigeons and doves, and the terms often are used interchangeably. The birds in question appear to be Rock Doves, well adapted to urban living. Of the 289 dove species found in the world, only 8 are considered full-time or part-time residents of Texas. Of these, only the mourning, white-winged, and white-tipped (white-fronted) doves are legal game birds. Therefore, deputies and vendors may not eat or hunt the Rock Doves in our midst. I believe them to be the local symbolic manifestation of the Holy Spirit and as such deserve their own courtesy resolution.

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