Faith Lutheran to host ‘Blessing Faith Lutheran to host ‘Blessing

By The Rev. Kathy Harris

Faith Lutheran Church

PICKENS — On Sunday, Oct. 26, animals will be brought forth during an afternoon worship service for a Blessing of the Animals at Faith Lutheran Church.

Large dogs, miniature dogs, newborn dogs, cats, kittens and even sugar gliders are welcome at the church’s outdoor altar for a blessing. As the animals receive their blessing, they are taken to a grassy area to receive several other gifts, a drink of fresh water from bowls, food treats and a chance to get to stretch their legs and run around and play.

Why would a church have a worship service just for animals? The brief service follows a liturgy that harkens back to the time of St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226 CE). He was a 12th century renewer of the church. Born into a wealthy family, St. Francis renounced his wealth at an early age upon seeing a vision that the Lord was calling him, not to join in the Crusades, but to return and renew the Church instead. While others took up arms in the Crusades, St. Francis went to the Muslim leader with a message of peace. He attempted to express God’s brotherhood by truly living the Gospel.

St. Francis preached about and lived a life of humility, poverty, simplicity, and prayers to everyone — even the birds. Many illustrations surround St. Francis’ life that deal with his love for animals. The story is told that one day while Francis was traveling with some companions, they happened upon a place in the road where birds filled the trees on either side. Francis told his companions to “wait for me while I go to preach to my sisters, the birds.” The birds surrounded him, drawn by the power of his voice, and not one of them flew away. Francis spoke to them: “My sister birds, you owe much to God, and you must always and in every place give praise to Him; for He has given you freedom to wing through the sky and He has clothed you… you neither sow nor reap, and God feeds you and gives you rivers and fountains for your thirst, and mountains and valleys for shelter, and tall trees for your nests. And although you neither know how to spin or weave, God dresses you and your children, for the Creator loves you greatly and blesses you abundantly. Therefore, always seek to praise God.”

This is the story that I share when I have children and adults ask me if there will be dogs in heaven. If our good and gracious God loves us so much in this life to give us these wonderful, beautiful creatures with which to share our lives, and if God cares for these creatures so much in this life — surely our Lord cares for them in the next. This truly gives us a reason to celebrate our creatures in this life and in the next. Hope to see you and your pet(s) on Sunday at 3 p.m.