Thursday, October 21, 2010
The Preacher’s Corner
If there were no animals, I wouldn’t want to go
Last Sunday as we completed the service, I breathed yet another sigh of relief that we’d gotten through it without anybody having eaten anybody else alive. Let me hasten to say that I speak of the annual service for the Blessing of the Animals that we share with Christ Episcopal Church!
As always, Christ Episcopal was a cacophony of barks and meows, all joining their voices in praise of the Creator who made them. Poor Susan Warren tried valiantly to play the hymn above all this caterwauling, but “every dog has his day,” and some of ours were determined to do so just then.
It is fun, year after year, to greet certain beloved pets again and again. Sometimes we note the passing of a participant of many years. This year there was thanksgiving for a sick one restored to health.
Dr. Liz Smith from the vet clinic and her menagerie came. At home was her favorite dog, who was the ring-bearer in the wedding procession when she and Stephen were married several years ago in Christ Church!
Dogs in the service are a new thing for me. In my growing-up years, other than the owl I have told you about, which found its way into our church one Saturday afternoon, I had never given the idea any thought. Certainly the idea of including them in worship or blessing them never entered our Delta Presbyterian minds.
My father used to tell the story of an elderly gentleman in the Christian Church where Daddy spent his childhood Sundays in Clinton, Ky., who used to bring his dog with him to the evening service on Sunday nights. The dog would lie down under the pew and be quiet. Occasionally Fido would want to venture out and, without taking his eyes off the preacher, the old man would grab the dog by his tail and pull him back under the pew. Daddy remembered the sound of the dog’s claws on the hardwood floor as the man pulled him back into place!
In our congregation here, Sara Hettinger would sometimes have her little dog Buzzie with her in the choir loft.
This would be the service on Christmas Eve, or some other special occasion when, as we were given to understand, Buzzie could not stand to be left home alone. I think these were also occasions when Sara especially missed her husband Dudley, who also had been a stalwart member of our church choir.
There is a special way that animals help fill the holes in our lives. Little Buzzie never made the least disturbance, and few people knew of her presence in our services.
The Service for the Blessing of the Animals was Bruce McMillan’s idea. Years ago when Bruce asked me to be an ecumenical representative at his service of institution as rector of Christ Church, three bishops were participating, and as we entered the church during the processional hymn there was a good deal of ecclesiastical finery and plumage on display.
Along with all the bright-robed clerics, Bruce’s two English spaniels wandered in, followed the reverend procession down the center aisle, took their places in front of the congregation and lay down.
One of them looked up lazily at the bishop delivering the sermon, yawned, licked his chops and contentedly went back to sleep. Bruce seemed not to be disturbed in the slightest, and I knew our town was in for some interesting days.
Psalm 84 says that “even the swallow hath found her a house at thine altars, O Lord of hosts.” The book of Revelation speaks of horses in heaven and four living creatures gathered around God’s throne. If there were no animals, I would not want to go there.
But our little service with the animals is a fine way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and to be thankful.
We also received a collection for the Marshall County Humane Society. That’s worth your interest and generosity as well.
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