Sunday, October 3, 2010

Blessing the animals on the Feast of St. Francis

We have been selling a picture wall calendar that displays animals blessed in religious services around the world. The calendar has received considerable interest. Each day I have been more and more interested in experiencing the animals in our lives being blessed in a worship service. Three church websites in Seattle informed me that they were blessing animals during the Sunday morning services this morning. “Which one would have the best turn out of animals?” I asked myself.

I chose St. Mark’s Cathedral. It was a good choice. Big cathedral. Lots of animals.
The main pew section to the left (old Gospel side) had signs, “Cats only in this section.”
The main pew section to the right (Epistle side) had signs, “Dogs only in this section.”
Part of the further-left section read “Pet-free area.” It was a thoughtful touch.
The further-right section of pews’ signs read, “Pets other than cats and dogs.” I sat at the back of that section. The woman next to me had Thumper, a beautiful longhaired rabbit. There were also small animals in small cages including gerbils, hamsters, and a Guinea pig.

The homilist asked if there were any chickens this morning. She missed having chickens attend. I missed seeing any birds or snakes.

The liturgical leader reminded us at the start of the service that God is present in chaos, so when we experience chaos during the service, just remember that God is present.

My informal tallying indicated a significant majority of dogs, of all sizes, ages, breeds as well as mixed-breeds. Many worshippers were very appreciative of other animals as well as their own. The community was very engaged.

What I experienced this morning in the blessing of the animals during the Sunday worship service was a happy, alert, alive congregation that was only marginally distracted by all of the animals. During the Eucharist the liturgy seemed to struggle keeping the pets and their owners engaged in the seriousness of the Body and Blood of Christ, but otherwise the service flowed and connected very well.

I thoroughly enjoyed the sharing of our worship service with those beloved animals that share our lives. We are blessed each day by the presence of the pets in our lives and this morning the pets were blessed, after the recessional hymn, by the Church. It was very fitting.