Ninth annual pet blessing service promotes respect for all animals

Sunday, August 17, 2008 | 10:56 p.m. CDT; updated 11:51 p.m. CDT, Sunday, August 17, 2008
Fran Reynolds introduces her two dogs, Maggie on the left and Toby on the right, during a pets blessing ceremony at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia. Members of the Church brought their pets to be blessed on Sunday.

It was difficult to hear Marianne Erickson's words above the whines, pants, barks and embarrassed whispers of "sit," "stay," and "good boy."

On Sunday, Erickson, the service's lay leader, welcomed congregants of the four-footed variety and their owners to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia for the church's ninth annual animal blessing service.


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"Today's service celebrates our caring for all animals, not just our household pets," Erickson told the congregation. "We gather today in recognition of our attachment to all the animals who share or have shared our lives and this planet with us."

The service, which began nine years ago as an outdoor event, has been attended in the past by ferrets, snakes and even a horse that got spooked when it saw its reflection in a window. Sunday's service saw mostly dog owners struggling to keep their pets calm in the presence of others, though a rabbit and a cat were also present.

To some of the people in attendance, a loving relationship between humans and animals is fundamental to the seven Unitarian Universalist principles, which include respect for the interdependent web of all existence.

"I think that we need to recognize that we're all God's creatures," said Anna Whitacre, who's been attending the church since June. "People and animals are part of a continuum, and to set a bar between people and animals, to say that we're one thing and they're another doesn't make sense."

She and her son Bill described themselves as "between pets," but have owned a host of animals, including dogs, fish and rats.

"I am baffled by people who say that animals can't think," Bill said. "I mean, they have a brain, and they act what they're thinking."

Fran Reynolds, who has been a member of the congregation since 1977, brought her 4-year-old cocker spaniels, Toby and Maggie, whom she adopted from Columbia Second Chance. Maggie, who was rescued from a puppy mill, was calmly hiding under Reynolds' chair. While Reynolds also called the animal blessing service as "a manifestation of respect for the interdependent web of all existence," she also brought her dogs in because, "the dogs need opportunities to be in more formal social situations. Last year, Maggie was tugging on her leash, so she's getting better."

Susan Stanley and her husband, Bob, had never attended the Unitarian Universalist Church but came to the service to bless their 11-year-old shipoo, Buster.

"Buster has been such a blessing to us, so we thought we would come in and have him blessed," Susan said as Buster, sporting a blue silk scarf, sat at attention in her lap.

Before the service, Erickson explained the goal of the animal blessing in detail, emphasizing humans' connection to all animals.

"One of the main objectives of this service is to inspire people to take good care of the pets they have, to be concerned about animals in general, not just about their own pets," she said.


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Ray Shapiro August 18, 2008 | 1:14 a.m.

The difference between dogs and cats? You return home after a long day and your dog meets you at the door, wagging his tail. You place some food in a bowl and he gobbles it up, thinking, "He must be god!"
You return home after a long day and your cat's in the house. You place some food in a bowl and he eventually begins to nibble, thinking, "I must be god!" (My cat happens to be a goddess.) Bless them all!

(Report Comment)
Bob Mitchell August 19, 2008 | 12:13 a.m.

This is a total sin and mockery to the Creator of the Heavens and of the Earth. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, will NOT be made a fool of, and HE is to be respected above all.
Romans ch. 1:21-32 says this:
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

You may think that this blessing thing is of the Lord, but I tell you what, God didn't make animals for us to worship and praise them like they're God. YES, he made animals, but only because it was for creation purpose only. Look in Geneses ch. 1:21-25, and it clearly states what and why God created beasts, fowls, fish, etc.
You people that listen to this new world order junk, and those of you following these silly preachers that preach against the living word of God, you better look out. These days we're living in are evil, and it's not a fairy tale.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr August 19, 2008 | 4:59 a.m.

I am wondering who Bob Mitchell in his comment he did not point to any person or group?

(Report Comment)
John Beaumonte August 19, 2008 | 7:44 a.m.

BM needs to learn to lighten up! Sometimes "Thumpers" get so lost in religion that they never realize how truly "myopic" they are to the outside world.
John Beaumonte

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