Thursday, September 24, 2009
The Preacher’s Corner
A raucous assembly of Episcopalians and Presbyterians
One of my favorite occasions is coming up, the annual service for the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi and the blessing of the animals, at which I assist the Rev. Bruce McMillan in Christ Episcopal Church. This year’s occasion will be at 2 p.m., Sunday, October 4, and everybody is invited to participate.
I don’t exactly know why I enjoy this occasion so much; my own pets have typically been quite ill-behaved. The enclosed photo snapped by an admiring parishioner shows my little dog vociferously being blessed by Father McMillan. I am supposing it is because she is a zealous Presbyterian and resists anything that smacks of Anglican high-church theology. (You know what they say about preacher’s children, and all that!)
It reminds me of the debacle they had a few years ago when the Presbyterians and Episcopalians in Scotland tried to effect a union. The committee took testimony in open hearing, and a venerable Scottish professor appeared and spoke earnestly in opposition. One of the committee members, who knew the learned gentleman well, said he was surprised to see him at this meeting as he had always supposed him to be an atheist. “Aye,” snapped the professor. “But I am a Presbyterian atheist!”
So we have such occasions precisely to break down walls of opposition and soften the rough edges of religious parochialism. If we can come together to urge people to take good care of their animals and to receive an offering for the work of the local humane shelter, maybe it will foster cooperation in other worthy enterprises as well.
Our little service mostly brings out the owners of dogs and cats. Many of the same animals have come across the years. Some have been so regularly, that now that they have grown old and died, their presence is missed. It is a reminder that things in the animal world are very unequal.
Some dogs and cats are doted on almost as if they were children; for others it goes hard. They are hungry, neglected and abused. It is that latter category we are trying to help. There are quite a few such animals in Marshall County.
We particularly encourage children to participate. They need to learn about the Christian’s obligation to care for the “wants and needs of others.” Being responsible for their own animals and caring for homeless pets through the work of our humane shelter is a very good way to teach such lessons.
It is sort of a raucous assembly — not the usual sedate kind of praying that Presbyterians and Episcopalians have built their reputations upon. “Good order above all else” is the Presbyterian motto. However, as a minister who is used to a good bit of snoozing in the pews while the sermon is delivered, I rather enjoy the lively engagement that occurs during the annual blessing of the pets.
Whatever those dogs and cats may lack in rational understanding, they more than make up with a joyful noise. One or two even “sing” along with the hymns.
If you would like to see a bit more merriment in church along with an effort for a good cause, why don’t you join us? Oh yes, if your pet is not housebroken, we will come outside to bless it.
The altar guild appreciates your understanding in this regard!
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