Angels. Do they have wings? Are they invisible? Do they play the harp and wear robes of white? Do they look like people or some other kind of ethereal creature? Or are they actual humans who also happen to sometimes perform amazingly kind and timely acts of mercy?
According to the dictionary and as described in holy texts, there are different kinds of angels. Some are characterized as celestial beings who abide with God. Other sorts of angels are more like guardians who dwell among humans.
And then there’s a type of angel defined as a messenger and, specifically, "a person who acts as if sent by God." I recently interacted with a few human angels in Mankato.
The organization that I work for recently hosted our annual assembly. There were about 500 people who came together for a couple days of worship, rejoicing, conversation and the business of what is called the "synod." This year’s theme was "Celebrating Our Global Congregation" and it was extra delightful because we got to welcome guests from Colombia, Tanzania and South Sudan.
The assembly is usually held in Rochester at Mayo Civic Center, and I write about it most years because it’s a highly gratitude-provoking experience.
This year, for a change of pace and nod to our friends on the far western end of the synod’s geographic region, we held the event at the Verizon Center in Mankato. New location equals fresh learning opportunities as well as new angelic encounters.
My role for the event was the production manager. I was involved in the technical preparations and on-site facilitating of lights and audio and video. Even after serving in this capacity for the last five years, I still get a stomach full of butterflies that flutter for the entirety of the event.
In the midst of all those metaphorical insects shifting around in my guts, I encountered miracles and angels in abundance. Here were a few:
Emmanuel the angel: A messenger of miraculous timing. In the midst of a so-cringeworthy-it’s-almost-funny technical glitch, Emmanuel appeared. He brought not only a relaxed presence but also a solution. After identifying a fix for the snafu, Emmanuel graciously ran to his hotel room, grabbed his laptop which happened to have the much needed and uncorrupted audio file, and saved the day.
Ed the angel: A messenger of consistency and calm. Though the event’s venue and team have changed, Ed’s presence has been a constant for many years for the assembly. He works for a company called PSAV that takes care of all of the video cameras and film recording. Ed’s response to any request is either "We can make that happen" or "No worries." He’s perpetually calm and it’s contagious.
Maranda the angel: A messenger of giftedness. The photographer who was arranged for the assembly had to back out three days prior due to medical concerns. I felt some stress and panic hoping our usual photographer would be OK and wondering who we could find as a replacement on such short notice. A friend of a friend connected me to Maranda, a brilliant eco-psychologist who studies resiliency in conservationists and also happens to be an amazing freelance photographer. Her photos of the event aren’t just great, they’re stellar and will serve as part of our organization’s photographic archive long into the future!
Angelica the angel: A messenger of confidence and conviction. Pastor Angelica was one of our global guests from the country of Colombia. Each time she stood before the assembly, she radiated truth. Despite a language barrier, her justice-oriented, relationship-rooted spiritual convictions were clear and inspirational.
This list is just a brief sampling of the many individuals who unknowingly served as human angels over the course of the assembly. They were divine signposts signaling that our Creator does, indeed, use people as angelic messengers in our midst. Thanks be to God!