They came one by one — a few two by two — on the October afternoon. Some stepped gingerly onto grass warmed by golden rays while others peered from protective arms like innocent babes.
Several barks in greeting, a couple of meows and anxious wiggles were all part of the unfolding scene. A time when creatures, great and small, would have more than a traditional doggie treat or an affectionate hug. Instead, a special blessing was in store.
“It’s almost like having the fair in your backyard,” Rev. Jane Schmoetzer, rector at
Pet lovers — some who are parishioners and others who are not — flock to the event to have a little extra love bestowed on their animals — something these loyal companions give all year long.
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“Animals are one of the first gifts God gave us,” reflects Rev. Jane. “I take real joy in blessing the creatures we share life with.”
Besides the extra attention bestowed on the various “critters,” the tradition also blesses their caretakers.
“They’re part of the family,” Bill Doolittle comments thoughtfully about the two standard poodles he brought for the church blessing. “I wanted to share a part of my life and there’s not really a place for them to sit in the pews.”
That isn’t to say Rev. Jane wouldn’t embrace an indoor service, but sometimes it could pose a concern.
“We have a large grassy area in our backyard,” the rector says and then adds without hesitation. “I wouldn’t be unhappy inside the church, but occasionally we have a horse.”
And it’s not just an occasional horse that might be better to have outside. An 11 year-old brought a corn snake for a blessing while her sister held onto “Pinky,” an albino. But the snakes were equally welcomed in remembrance of St. Francis of Assisi who cared for all God’s creatures.
“The most unusual one to bless was a tarantula,” Rev. Jane chuckles about a grandmother who brought her grandson’s big spider one year. “So I said I’d bless it in the cage and the Holy Spirit could penetrate it there.”
Although there’s no biblical reference to Jesus specifically blessing animals, the rector points out that he showed love in a lot of places one wouldn’t expect.
“The loyalty and devotion God’s creatures show to us — that’s the kind of love to which we are called, not just to say it but to demonstrate it.”
That’s unconditional love. The same kind of love God offers mankind no matter who we are or how we look. He wants to bless us all.
Psalm 36:6b-8 “You care for people and animals alike, O Lord. How precious is your unfailing love, O God!” (New Living Translation)