Manifestations of angels

Nowadays, Curtis Bush almost always leaves the church sparkling - literally

Alabama/The Birmingham News, April 9, 2000

Before the first feather appeared Nov. 16, Senn said he had been preaching that his interdenominational congregation was on the verge of something big.

"God's fixing to do something that we've never seen," he told his flock, "and it's gonna blow our mind."

But even the pastor said he got uneasy when the unusual events began. While his church is openly Pentecostal, Senn said he has never veered into "wild, loony stuff." He knew the feathers were a one-way ticket out of the mainstream.

"When you say you're receiving manifestations of angels, people think you're crazy," Senn said. "To the natural ear, it sounds foolish."

Indeed, Senn answers some questions before you can ask: The church isn't harboring pigeons in its rafters, he said, and its prefab metal building has no attic or exposed vents that could account for the feathers.

The pastor said he may have the feathers tested, but no matter what the findings, he'll always believe they came from God.

"I've had around 15 appear before my eyes," he said. "The evidence is just overwhelming."

Feathers everywhere

The church is amassing a collection of the feathers and the stories behind them. Stored in plastic sleeves, some are almost too tiny to see, while others are several inches long. Most are white, but some are in bright hues like orange and purple. Sometimes, feathers appeared after an angelic vision or with what seemed to be providential timing.

Kyle Pauley, a fifth-grader at Sunshine Christian School in Ozark, said a black-and-white feather fell from the sky as he was discussing his church's experience with two skeptical classmates. Caitlin Turvin, a fifth-grader at Wicksburg High School, produces two she found on her campus.

Brenda Peters of Midland City found a spindly scarlet feather last month while vacuuming the church. Marie Stanford of Midland City shows one of two white feathers her disabled adult son found in public places, including a Wal-Mart.

"I thank God for these feathers because of the way they encourage us," Ms. Stanford said. "I'm thankful that God chose this little church."

Not all convinced

To Auburn University's Harrell, the stories are typical of reported miracles in Pentecostal circles, where he said largely unsophisticated congregations believe faith in the supernatural is "a test of their radical commitment to God."

"I don't think it would bear up to scientific investigation," he said. "Much of it is highly subjective. I would look for some kind of rational explanation."

Even at Kings Table, not everyone was convinced at first. A few skeptical families left the church, Senn said. And within some families, the events have been the subject of debate and ridicule.

Don Hall, who operates a barber and beauty shop, said one of his sons cut up a feather duster, put the pieces atop a ceiling fan, and waited for his unsuspecting brother to turn the fixture on.

"All these feathers started raining down, and he went crying to his mother," Hall said.

Even Senn's father, also a minister, prayed once for a sign about whether the feathers were from God. The next day, Senn said, his father found a feather. Likewise, some at Kings Table said they were doubtful until convinced by sheer numbers or a personal experience.

Answer to prayer

Russell Page, an emergency room doctor from Dothan, was among the early skeptics.

"Being in medicine, we're taught there's a rationale for everything," said his fiancee, Syretha Pauley, a nurse in Dothan and the sister of Senn's wife, Sheryl.

But on Dec. 22, about a month after the first feather appeared, Page found himself gazing at the night sky and uttering an unusual prayer. "I said, 'God, I don't need one," Page recalled, "but I sure would like a feather.'"

It happened the next day. Page said he was driving at about 70 mph, with the windows down, when he got a wind-defying answer from God. "I looked down and there was a feather just dancing on my knee, with this light coming right down on it like an outline," he said.

Willie Rae Stephenson, 78, of Ariton, found a feather by her husband's bed before he died in January. About a month later, she found something else: a gold filling in a cavity.

Seeing a mouthful

Mrs. Stephenson said she had scrounged up $80 for the dentist and had set up an appointment to get a filling the following week. But then she noticed something strange about the back molar during a Tuesday morning service.

"Something felt different," she said. "All through church I was touching my tongue to it."

After the service, she spotted the gold filling, a miracle she is at a loss to explain. "I don't know what it means," she said. "I'm not asking why. The Lord knows why."

Whatever the reason, Mrs. Stephenson has had a hard time keeping her mouth shut about her good fortune. She readily pops out her partial to offer a better view of the filling. "I reckon everybody in my church has looked in my mouth," she said.

Dothan dentist Wayne Prim has signed a statement verifying another Kings Table member, Rosie Alexander, now has gold in the place where he put a porcelain crown two years ago. But Ms. Alexander said she didn't need the dentist's word to know the gold crown was from God.

"I know it was because nobody else has been in my mouth," she said, after rearing back her head to show off the gold upper molar. "If I had a gold tooth put in myself, I'd put it right here in the front so everyone could see it."

Senn said miracles shouldn't seem out of the realm of possibility for a God given credit for such things as parting the Red Sea, crumbling the walls of Jericho and raising Jesus from the dead.

"It's just amazing how close we walk to the supernatural realm," he said. "The only thing hindering us from walking in it is our own faith."

Still the people of Kings Table Worship Center aren't taking their signs for granted, least of all Senn.

"I'm freaking out," the minister said. "I've never seen anything like this, and I've been in church all my life. What you see here is overwhelming. But our God is an overwhelming God."


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