Blessing of the Animals a Success!

April 22, 2007

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)

Homily Elizabeth

(Children Return)

Blessing Of The Animals



Opening Words

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.)

Benediction/Closing Words

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.

Come to The Blessing and Celebration of the Animals!

April 12, 2007

A Celebration and Blessing of the Animals
First Unitarian Universalist Society of Middleboro, MA
Sunday, April 22, 2007 * 10:30am
(scroll down to bottom for directions/details)

During our Sunday worship service on April 22, The First Unitarian Universalist Society of Middleboro (FUUSM) will hold the first Celebration and Blessing of the Animals ever to be held at FUUSM. This will be the final service that Elizabeth, the student intern minister, will lead. She is happy to be doing it around a theme that is so close to her heart. As April 22 is Earth Day, it will be a special time to reflect on the interdependent web of existence of which we and all other animals are a part. Animal companions are invited to the service, and with a little planning it should be a very special worship service.

We ask only animals that will do well in a public place join us at the service. We want all of our animals and humans to feel comfortable. While we will have supplies on hand to clean up any accidents, we encourage you not to bring your animal if you think that this is likely to be a problem. You might want to consider if your friend gets along well enough with other animals to join us, and if he or she will be okay sitting through the service. If your animal companion doesn’t do well in public or is not ready for such a big event just yet, we encourage you to bring a picture of him or her, a stuffed animal that represents your friend, or you can bring a collar or blanket that your friend likes and we can bless that instead.

Anyone is also invited to bring a pictures of animals friends that have passed away. There will be a time in the service to remember those animal friends whom we have lost. We asks that dogs are on short leashes or in carriers, and that all cats and any other animal that my try to scurry away be in carriers. Unfortunately, we do not have room in our sanctuary for any horses, goats, cows, sheep, or bigger pigs, but if you would like to have any bigger animals blessed outside after the service, please let Elizabeth know and arrangements can be made. There will be a special “human only” section of the sanctuary for anyone with allergies. With some flexibility and creativity, our Celebration and Blessing of the Animals promises to be an exciting way to honor and affirm the love and joy that our animal companions bring to us.

First Unitarian Universalist Society of Middleboro
25 South Main Street, Middleboro, MA 02346
April 22, 2007 * 10:30am (Regular time for Sunday Services)
Phone: 508-947-1935

Starry Night Band Playing in Middleboro, MA – Make an Evening of It and Support a UU Church!

February 22, 2007

On Saturday, Feb. 24 at the Unitarian Universalist Society in Middleboro, MA – 25 S. Main St. – the Starry Night Band will be playing a mix of folk, classical and Celtic acoustic music. There was a cool article about it in the Middleboro Gazette.

At the beginning of the evening downstairs in the Parish Hall, everyone will be offered tantalizing appetizers and beverages. “Delightful tidbits made with ingredients that are easier on our planet to produce will be provided for your enjoyment,” said a spokesperson…At 7:30 p.m. the show begins in the sanctuary…At about 9 p.m. there will be delectable desserts from organic ingredients. Many recipes for appetizers and desserts will be available to take home. Organic coffees and teas will be served with dessert. This event is sponsored by the “Green Church Program” (a group promoting recycling, energy conservation, organic, vegetarian and alternative foods within Unitarian Universalist congregations). Admission for this evening is $20 (more or less if you are able).

It should be a really fun evening and I know there will be lots of good food. If you are in the area, come! AND if you are a student like me, don’t be scared away by the $20 suggested admission. Better for you to come and pay $10 than not come at all (remember it includes quite a bit of good food!). Also, bring the kids and talk the door person about a family rate. The more the merrier!

Vegetarian Appetizers

January 23, 2007

FUUSM is having a fundraising event on Feb 24 – the Starry Night Band will be playing and we’ll have wonderful appetizers and drinks, before and after the lovely music. The Green Sanctuary committee is sponsoring the food and encouraging folks to make apps. that are low on the food chain. I’ll be posting appetizer recipes for those that aren’t used to making things without meat. Ideally, all food would be made without meat, or milk or egg based products, but of course food with those things isn’t banned. Here are some ideas to start everyone off – including some tips on cooking low on the food chain.

Milk and butter: Soy milk almost always works to replace cow’s milk without anyone being able to tell the difference. This is also the case with butter – there is soy butter that tastes just as yummy as milk-based butter. All soy milk seems to work the same for me – if you need something thicker, try soy creamer which is whiter and thicker ( I think the best soy butter is Earth Balance ( but there are other kinds that work well.

Appetizer ideas:

Baked Veggies

This is a simple but very yummy (and healthy) option. Get some asparagus, baby carrots, potatoes (ideally some yellow, some red, some sweet) chopped into 1/4 inch cubes, butternut squash cubes, mushrooms (if you like them – I don’t!), and some onions. Put aluminum foil down on a cookie sheet. Lay out all the veggies flat. You can season them separately – for instance, putting some oregano and basil on the regular potatoes, soy butter on the sweet potatoes, some rosemary on the asparagus, etc. – and then drizzle olive oil over them all. Bake until soft. These can be served with toothpicks or with forks on a small plate. If you make sure they are tender, they are actually very yummy at room temperature. No need to keep them hot/warm unless you just want to. You could include a balsamic vinegar sauce if you want to get very fancy.

Balsamic Vinegar Sauce

1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
1 onion, chopped finely
3 tablespoons of finely chopped rosemary (ideally fresh, but dried will do)
1 tablespoon of finely chopped parsley (ideally fresh, but dried is fine)
juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cook onion in cider vinegar until soft. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients, mixing well. Simmer. Depending on your preference, you can let sit overnight (so flavor soaks in) and then strain out the onions and spices, or you can leave them in. If you plan to keep the sauce heated with a little flame, you can use soy butter instead of olive oil. But if you aren’t going to keep it heated, the butter will congeal which isn’t so nice.

Creole Stuffed Mushrooms

1 serving olive oil cooking spray — (5 one-second sprays per serving)
1 pound button mushrooms — about 24 large mushrooms
1 tbsp. water
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
10 oz frozen chopped spinach — thawed and drained
2 1/2 slices whole-wheat bread — chopped into bread crumbs
1 tsp Creole seasoning — or Cajun seasoning
1/4 tsp ground turmeric

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly coat a jelly roll pan with cooking spray.

2. Remove mushroom stems from caps and finely chop stems; reserve caps and set aside.

3. Heat water in a large skillet over high heat. Sauté mushroom stems, onion, pepper and spinach until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir in remaining ingredients until well-combined.

4. Stuff each mushroom cap with 2 tablespoons of filling mixture. Place mushrooms, stuffed sides up, on jellyroll pan. Bake, uncovered, 15 minutes; serve warm.

(The mushrooms can be stuffed in advance, covered, refrigerated and then baked later in the day to save on last minute preparation time.)

Endive, Pear and Walnut Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

For appetizers, serve these in cupcake holders and forks available.

This salad calls for Asian pears, also known as Chinese or apple pears. If you can’t find those, Bartlett or Anjou pears will do just fine.

(Double if you want to make a lot.)

4 medium-size heads of Belgian endive, leaves separated and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 bunch of watercress, rinsed and torn into small pieces (I think you can also get canned watercress which is fine too)
1 large Asian pear, peeled, cored and sliced (not too thin)
2 oz. of chopped walnuts

Mix all together, toss with vinaigrette. Makes six regular servings. 12-14 app. size servings.

Topenade Cucumber Pedestals

3 cucumbers, peeled and sliced down the middle, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups sundried black olives, pitted and minced
1/4 cup red onion, minced
1/4 cup cucumber, minced
1/4 cup red bell pepper, minced
1 teaspoon thyme minced (fresh is ideal but not needed)
1/2 tablespoon oregano, minced (fresh is ideal but not needed)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Using a small teaspoon, scoop half of the seedbed out of each cucumber round forming small cups. Set aside. Using mortar and pestle (or something else you can mush it all together with) mix the remaining ingredients until a slightly formed paste. With each cucumber cup scoop about a tablespoon of topenade into each cup. Garnish with oregano leaf (if you have one) and chill before serving. (Serves 6 to 8 so if this is for the fundraiser, you might want to double or triple this)


Roasted Artichoke with Chipotle Aioli

1 large artichoke
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup aioli sauce
½ cup soy milk
¼ teaspoon of mustard
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
dash of salt
¼ teaspoon of paprika
6 teaspoons of vegetable oil
1/2 tsp hot sauce (optional)
1/4 cup enchilada sauce
juice of one lime (about 2 tbsp)
dash cayenne (optional)
1/2 tsp chipotle powder

In a medium sized pot, place artichoke in water and bring water to a boil. Cover, reduce heat slightly and allow to steam for 15 minutes. Remove artichoke from pot, place in baking pan and drizzle with olive oil, garlic and salt.

To make the aioli sauce, combine 1/2 cup of soy milk, 1/4 teaspoon mustard,
2 teaspoons of lemon juice, dash of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of paprika. Use a low setting and do not over mix. Slowly add the oil, a few drops at a time. This will cause the mixture to thicken. Once all the ingredients have been added, mix until a smooth texture is achieved. Keep it refrigerated.

Bake artichoke in 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, until soft. Meanwhile, blend together white sauce, hot sauce, enchilada sauce, lime, cayenne and chipotle until well mixed. When artichoke is done cooking, allow to cool slightly. To eat, pull leaves from the artichoke, dip in chipotle sauce. For apps – artichoke leaves can be separated and people can pick them up individually, and dip into sauce that they put on their plate – or they can be put on plates with a dollop of sauce to start with and people can just pick up the plates with 2-3 leaves and sauce.


More to come!