We held a Blessing and Celebration of the Animals today at our church. It was my idea and I organized it and ran the service and I was SO happy that it went so wonderfully and smoothly. There was some relatively strong anxiety by some people in the church about having animals in the church and all the things that could go wrong. But luckily I think the animals sensed that it was a special time, and they were amazingly well behaved. Not even a bark, for goodness sakes! We played All God’s Creatures Have a Place in the Choir during the blessing, which worked really well. We also had a time of remembrance, where people could bring up pictures of animal friends they have lost and light a candle to their memory. It was very powerful, and such a testament to the strong bonds we form with our animals.
For anyone who might be interested in holding a Blessing and Celebration of the Animals in your church, here is the liturgy we used. Tips and pictures to follow in a few days.
Blessing and Celebration of the Animals Order of Service
Prelude “Doggies’ Policemen” Sinobu Onaka
Opening Words and Welcome by Elizabeth
Chalice Lighting Jeff and Finnegan Stevens
(Note that Finnegan is a tortoise)
Hymn All the Creatures of the Earth and Sky
Liturgical Dance (Celebration of Earth Day) Annie McLaughlin
Children’s Call To R. E. Classes
Joys & Sorrows
Remembering The Animals
Offertory Music: White Goat, Black Goat” Ikuma Dan
Hymn Blue Boat Home
Moment Of Stewardship Greg Stevens
Meditation Rev. Tricia Tummino
(Ten minute warning to RE Classes)
Blessing Of The Animals
In the words of Fyodor Dostoyevsky:
“Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.”
Let us worship together.
Good morning and Welcome to the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Middleboro. We would especially like to welcome all of our visitors this morning – humans and companion animals. For our human visitors, we invite you to sign the guest book in the parlor so that we know you were here with us. If you’d like to receive the newsletter, please just put a star next to your name.
After the services we gather downstairs for coffee hour and we invite everyone to join us. If you have need of an elevator, we have one in the back and someone will be there to assist you with that after the service.
Just a quick note about our special service today – we are so happy to have all of our animal companions here. Please don’t fret if your animal makes noise during the service. A few barks and meows are normal. If you feel like your friend is getting particularly restless, or needs some fresh air or to use the restroom, please don’t hesitate to take him or her outside during the service and return when he or she is feeling better. There are paper towels and cleaning supplies spread throughout the sanctuary should anyone have need of those, and a trash can and plastic bags in the church yard if you need to clean up after your friend. We also ask that our animal friends only come forward during the blessing of the animals – for other parts of the service, if you need to come forward, we would appreciate it if you could leave your friend with a neighbor in your pew.
Again! Welcome to the service.
Introduction to the Remembrance of the Animals
This is a special time in our service where we can remember animals that are no longer with us. If you brought a picture of your animal friend that you have lost, you may bring the pictures up and set them either on the altar or tables around the altar, and light a candle to his or her memory. If you do not have a picture or memento to bring up, but would still like to remember an animal friend, you may write his or her name and years of life on the cards that are in each pew and bring that up to the altar.
We will begin our remembrance.
Homily – Loving Our Animals
Good morning! Happy Earth day and Happy Blessing of the Animals Day!
I am so happy to be here this morning in the presence of this lovely congregation, and all of our visitors.
As many of you know, environmental concerns and animal concerns are important to me so I am especially pleased, in my last sermon that I will give here during my internship, to be able to talk about two of my strongest passions this morning – animals and our earth.
Now this is something I could talk on for a while – at least an hour or two – but given our limited time here this morning, and the fact that many of our visitors would be even more resistant than some of our regular attendees to an extra long sermon, I just want to bring to our attention two themes for us to reflect on this special day when we celebrate and bless our animal friends.
First, I want to remind us why we do a blessing of the animals in a church. I must say there were a lot of people unsure about bringing all of these critters here today – in a church for heavens sake. But, I think that the reason we are doing this here today is not just because it is fun to show off our furry friends or exciting for the children. We are celebrating and blessing the animals today – April 22 – Earth Day in order to affirm our seventh principle – to honor and respect the interconnected web of life of which we are all a part.
We are affirming that church is not just a place about people – about individuals, or even about human communities, but that our earth, and the beings of the earth are important to us, are holy, and actually belong right here in the sanctuary. We are honoring our animal companions not only as fun companions, or beings that bring us joy, but we are celebrating them and honoring them because they are sentient beings with whom we share our life and our earth. They are members of our family, and members of the family of the earth – in some cases, companion animals can serve as spiritual guides – as therapists – we have relationships with them, and they with us.
This morning we are celebrating those relationships, that love, that connection.
Secondly, this morning, I want to share a story about Chester the cat. I was never able to meet Chester, but he has played an important role in my life. Chester was the cat of a young man who I know in Dayton, Ohio, where I grew up. I mentored Timothy for many years and he was especially caring toward the cats that he would sneak into his apartment – which was in the housing projects of Dayton, Ohio, and didn’t allow cats. About a year after I moved here to Boston, Timothy called me to tell me Chester was very sick. I told him to keep an eye on Chester, and we would see if he needed to go to the vet. Two days later, it had gotten much worse. Chester wasn’t able to walk and he wasn’t eating. Of course, Timothy’s family couldn’t afford a vet, and I certainly couldn’t stand hearing about either Chester or Timothy suffering. So at this news, I coordinated getting Chester to the vet – my mom still lived in Ohio and she went and picked Chester up and took him to the doctor.
The whole process of finding out about about Chester being sick and getting him to the vet took about three days. On day number four I finally spoke with the vet and found out that Chester was in the late stages of Feline leukemia. He had already suffered greatly, she said. There was no time to wait for Timothy to come and say goodbye. Chester needed to be euthanized right away. So, $289 dollars later, I had managed not even to prevent Chester from suffering. He had lived a sad end of his life, in great pain.
For some reason, this got to me. For me, somehow, Chester represented so much pain in the world. I felt so helpless to help even little Chester, much less all the other suffering kitties of the world. Much less the suffering people. As so many of us talk about together here, sometimes the pain in the world can seem so overwhelming. I worried and I fretted, not able to get little Chester – and everything he represented – off of my mind. I agonized – what can I do? There is so much suffering and violence and pain and sadness in our world. How can I even begin to do something about it.
And then, it came to me, that I could do something. It was not a huge something, it would not take back Chester’s suffering. It would be only a small drop in the ocean, in fact. But it was something -it was a response that would matter.
That day I decided to stop eating products from animals – milk, eggs, and meat. For me, it was one way that I could reduce the suffering in the world – to save a few Chesters of our world from suffering.
So, in addition to blessing and celebrating the animals that we have here with us today, I would be remiss if I did not share my hope for all sentient beings – that some day, all sentient beings would live lives free of violence, and full of love. The less harm we bring to all animals, the less violence is in our world – the more love.
This morning I am making no proclamations about how we must live, rather I am inviting us to consider what it means to fully live out our seventh principle – to honor and respect the interdependent web of life of which we are a part. We can not do it all. I am not perfect. None of us are. All we can do is what we can do. But, as we go about the hard work of love and justice in our lives, let us take our animals friends into consideration when we think about what we can do.
Today, is a wonderful beautiful spring day – we are celebrating our companions that we have here today, those whom we have lost, and those billions of animal friends who live lives not a lot unlike Chester’s last days.
Let us live as fully in love – in love of the earth, in love of all animals – as we can, recognizing that the more our lives reflect peace, and gentleness, and compassion, the more we can bring that to our world.
May it be so.
Introduction to the Blessing of the Animals
Now, we will celebrate and bless our animals. The Blessing will take place while we listen to “All God’s Creatures Have a Place in the Choir” - you can find the words in the order of service if you’d like to sing along. We invite companion animals and their humans to come up and Tricia and I will ask their name and then bless them. If you brought a picture or other item to represent your animal friend, you may also bring that forward at this time and we are happy to bless that as well.
(Note the blessing went something like ” [Name of animal], may you live a long, happy, and blessed life” – and we would touch the animal companion’s head as we spoke the blessing.)
May we show love in all our actions
May our lives be a testament to peace and compassion.
Let us call each other to be our best selves.
And may we daily celebrate the earth and her creatures.
Amen and Blessed be.