FROM READERS: Broadway Christian Church holds animal-blessing service

Friday, October 5, 2012 | 3:08 p.m. CDT; updated 1:22 p.m. CDT, Saturday, October 6, 2012
Terry Overfelt, associate minister at Broadway Christian Church, gets a kiss from one of the pets she blessed during the 2011 Blessing of the Beasts service. The church is holding the animal-blessing event again on Sunday, Oct. 7.

Cheri Ghan is a member of Broadway Christian Church. This summer, she wrote a From Readers article about the church's Vacation Bible School expanding to include a program for children with disabilities.

Columbia residents will have an opportunity to participate in a centuries-old ritual Sunday, Oct. 7, as Broadway Christian Church holds its second annual Blessing of the Beasts service beginning at 5 p.m. in the church’s outdoor worship area at 2601 West Broadway.

The tradition of blessing animals began some 800 years ago with St. Francis of Assisi. The patron saint of animals and the environment is known for showing compassion toward all living things. Broadway Senior Minister Tim Carson said members of the public are invited to bring any animal to the service, provided the animal is leased or restrained.

The service will include traditional readings and songs that observe the place of our animal friends in all creation. Broadway ministers will then go through the crowd to personally bless each animal present.

Carson said this is his favorite part of the event, which, he added, can also help reinforce the spiritual faith of the pet owners.

“It helps them integrate their understanding of God's creation that includes both human and non-human creatures, and our ethical responsibility to protect and live harmoniously,” Carson said.

The Broadway Blessing of the Beasts service was the brainchild of member Michelle Marshall, a veterinarian at Horton Animal Hospital on Paris Road. She thinks any event that raises the awareness in the community of the human-animal bond is “great,” and agrees with Carson’s assessment of the spiritual role pets can play.

“Yes, very much so,” Marshall said. “Pets provide unconditional love and are excellent ambassadors of acceptance and forgiveness. People can learn a lot from them.”

Special guests from the animal protection and rescue community also will be present to discuss local animals in need.

Refreshments for both pets and their two-legged friends will be available after the service.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how.Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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