This Sunday may look and sound a little different around Auburn United Methodist Church.
In addition to the sounds of music and friendly greetings, one may also hear the purr of kittens, the neighing of horses, and the barking of dogs as we host a “Blessing of the Pets” worship service this Sunday at 5:30 p.m.
For many churches, the first Sunday of October is the traditional time to bless the animals. This day has long been associated with the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, that holy man of old who loved both people and animals.
Sometimes when we gather for the “Blessing of the Pets” service, we read The Prayer of St. Francis, which begins, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace ….” We sometimes sing a hymn such as “All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small ….”
I find this service meaningful when we recall the way animals have been part of the story of faith in Scripture.
In the first chapters of Genesis, we recall how God created all living things and remember in the story of Noah and the flood how God demonstrated special care for creation (Genesis 9:9–10).
Other examples of animals in the Bible include the giant fish that saved Jonah, the ravens that brought bread to Elijah, the cows and sheep that grazed and seemed to worship near the manger at the birth of Jesus.
Of course, who can forget the many animals that repented in Nineveh (Jonah 3:7). Have you ever seen an animal repent? I have never witnessed a cat repent of anything, but I have seen our dog Lollipop look really pitiful when she felt ashamed for creating a mess in our home.
Animals bless our lives every day and often serve as the best example of unmerited grace in our lives. Which animals or pets do you give thanks for today? How has God taught you and blessed you with the unconditional love of a pet? As we prepare for this Sunday, you may want to share these words of blessing with a special pet in your life:
“Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless this pet. By the power of your love, enable this beloved creature to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures! Amen.”
Dr. Cory Smith is the Senior Minister of Auburn United Methodist Church. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, The Candler School of Theology at Emory University and Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. He is married to Alicia, and they have one daughter, Sarah Morgan.