It happened! Yesterday, for the first time, St. James Presbyterian Church gathered for a pet blessing, and there were 35 plus people there to celebrate the occasion.
Pet blessings usually happen in October near the anniversary of Francis of Assisi’s death. Of all the heroes of the faith, Francis is the one who is most closely associated with animals. He even preached to them, because he experienced God’s love in and through them.
While I have never preached to animals (though I have said to my Boston terrier that he needs to get his heart right with Jesus), I believe that pet blessings are biblical. In the first chapter of Genesis, God says, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind,” and God sees that it is good.
In the story of Noah and the ark, God cares enough about animals to protect them from the coming flood. The prophet Isaiah assures God’s people that, in the New Jerusalem, lions and lambs will lie down together, and such statements assume that there will be animals in heaven.
Before my daughter, who is now in college, started kindergarten we bought two dogs: a teacup poodle and the aforementioned Boston terrier. The poodle almost made it to her 10th birthday, and the terrier, who is now in his golden years, is as feisty as ever. Both pets have brought joy into our lives, and it makes sense that such blessings are worthy of blessings.
Watching the faces of folks light up as they told stories about their pets confirmed that they experience joy through their relationships with the dogs, cats, birds, hamsters and toads in their lives, too. By the way, yesterday marked another first, at least for me: it was the first time that I have ever blessed a toad!
Yesterday’s service was as family-focused and as child-friendly as any service that a church may have, and I am pleased to report that it attracted at least one set of guests to the church. I also appreciate the middle school Sunday school class’ contribution to the festivities: homemade dog treats that were baked at church mere hours before the service started. The pets who gobbled them up personified the Psalm that invites us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”
I pray that we, as a congregation, will continue to be family-focused (remembering that there a lots of definitions of “family” at work in the world) and child-friendly. I give thanks for the warmth and light that St. James shares with this community.
At yesterday’s pet blessing, we shared this warmth and light with God’s furriest creations, and I happen to believe that they shared God’s warmth and light with us, too.