Lutheran Blessing of Animals or Another Example of What Happens When You Drift Free From Your Theological Mooring
Two questions: A) Why do pets and other animals need the church’s "blessing"? B) What Lutheran congregation in its right mind would so such a thing? I know, it is "cute" and I’m sure the kiddies and grown ups all are quite pleased with the whole thing and it makes a lot of people happy, but….is that any reason to engage in such activity? This happened in Georgetown, South Carolina at an ELCA congregation. I’m wondering what might happen if the congregation were to "bless" a nice fat pig and then slaughter it on the spot and roast it for a delicious pork feast. Now that might be something a bit more appropriate if we are truly to celebrate God’s gift of animals to us, "Take and eat" as St. Peter was told. But it would be terribly messy, might upset some folks and kind of be a damper on the whole "cuteness" thing going on here. In our house we "bless" animals every day when we pray, "Lord God, Heavenly Father, bless us and these Thy gifts, which we receive from Thy bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
Daniel Cox ran around the lawn of Trinity Lutheran Church in Maryville
Sunday afternoon showing everyone in attendance his turtle Marty, one
of the numerous pets gathered by their owners for the first-ever
Blessing of the Animals service held at the church.
“Everything needs a blessing, even the animals. I figure this will help them,” Daniel’s dad, Richie Cox said.
While dogs greatly outnumbered the other pets that were there to
receive a blessing from Pastor Nedra Merriman, there were also ferrets,
guinea pigs, cats and – for a short time – a horned owl.
said Blessing of the Pets and Animals services are quite common across
the country but, as far as she knows, this was the first held in
The services are generally held in early October to
coincide with the Oct. 4 date of death of St. Francis of Assisi, the
Roman Catholic patron saint of animals and ecology.
She said such services were held at her church in Atlanta and she wanted to bring the tradition to Georgetown.
About two dozen people gathered outside the church under perfect fall
weather as the service began with Irene Mobley presenting and then
releasing a horned owl that has been receiving care from International
Center for Birds of Prey.
“It came into the center in June. She had
been found on the ground in Walterboro. She had severe emaciation, we
don’t know why. We gave her antibiotics and kept her and fed her and
now she was ready to be released,” Mobley said, adding that she fed the
owl half a rat prior to being set free.
As the owl flew out of
sight towards the marshes surrounding the city, Merriman and some kids
from her church read scriptures as the pets sat amazingly quiet and
still next to their owners.
Merriman, after the scriptures and a
prayer, walked around touching each animal, delivering a personal
blessing to each one. What the pets probably liked the most was the bag
of treats each was given for their owners to take home and feed them.
Shelley Kaufman had two dogs in tow – Jed and Molly – for the service.
“My mom is a member of the church and these dogs are very important to us,” she said.
Mobley also brought her ferret, Otter, to the service which seemed to take a liking to many of the dogs and other pets on hand.
Little Tyler Bone, who spent a lot of time rubbing the stomach of her
dog Cassie, had people laughing when she ran up front asking Merriman
to also bless two small stuffed animals she was carrying.
Merriman, herself a pet lover, had her dog Shelly by her side during the service.
“It’s amazing the friendship human beings develop with their pets. She
loves me when it seems other people may not. She is glad to see me and
I am glad to see her. I care for her the way God cares for me,”
She said the service is “an acknowledgment of our great love for God’s creation.”
She also said she was amazed at how well the various animals got along.
She said she had feared there may be problems when they were all
brought together but the service was peaceful.