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A deer smashed into a Michigan church on the first day of hunting season. Pastors say it ‘had come for prayer.’

UPDATED: Fri., Dec. 3, 2021

A whitetail buck as seen in Glacier National Park.  (Courtesy of NPS)
A whitetail buck as seen in Glacier National Park. (Courtesy of NPS)
By Jonathan Edwards The Washington Post

Pastors at Grace Sturgis first suspected someone had broken in when they arrived at their nondenominational church in southern Michigan on an early November morning.

They saw a shattered window in the auditorium and heard thumping in the dark, pastor Amanda Eicher told MLive.com. When they turned on the lights, however, they were surprised to find a 10-point buck scrambling to escape.

It was the first day of Michigan’s firearm hunting season.

“I was just shocked by how high he could jump,” Eicher said. “I was amazed at how big he was.”

Eicher and two other pastors barricaded the hallway to block the deer from going into other parts of the church. Meanwhile, the buck wandered across the auditorium stage, near the drums and soundboard.

Eicher went back into the auditorium and started filming. The buck climbed up to the second-floor balcony and started pacing back and forth, according to a 48-second Facebook video.

“Oh my word! Oh my word! What is happening?” Eicher yelled as she filmed the buck trying to scale an interior wall.

It eventually came back down, jumped out the shattered window it had come through and bounded off into the wild.

The buck didn’t look like it had been shot but seemed to be bleeding slightly from small cuts made when it jumped in through the window, Eicher told the MLive.com. Aside from the broken window, the only damage to the church was some blood stains on the carpet.

For some Facebook and YouTube commenters, a deer hopping into a church on the opening day of hunting season called to mind the antiquated practice of sanctuary. In medieval Europe, fugitives could escape execution by taking refuge inside a church.

Roman Catholic leaders believed a consecrated church was “protected space,” Karl Shoemaker, a professor of history and law at the University of Wisconsin and author of “Sanctuary and Crime in the Middle Ages, 400-1500,” told History.com in 2019. “It would be inappropriate in the extreme to carry weapons into the church or to arrest someone or to exercise force within the church.”

The practice was famously captured by French author Victor Hugo in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” The novel’s main character, Quasimodo, tries to save his love interest, La Esmeralda, from death by yanking her away from executioners and whisking her to the Notre Dame cathedral, where he cries out, “Sanctuary!” The scene was reprised in Disney’s 1996 musical adaptation of Hugo’s novel.

As for the Michigan deer, Grace Sturgis had fun with the whole thing, something Eicher said has been in short supply .

“We all need reasons to laugh, especially with the hard seasons from the past two years,” she told MLive.com. “I’m glad we could provide some laughs.”

That levity carried over to social media. On Monday, the church posted to Facebook that the pastors had come to work that morning like it was just another day.

“Little did they know that a 10-point buck had come for prayer in the auditorium on opening day of gun season,” the post from the church read, adding, “There was some damage to the building and our pastors are a little traumatized.

“But the buck left strengthened in the Lord to go face his battles.”

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