I didn’t expect a goat! Of course, there would be dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, turtles, the occasional lizard, or hermit crab. I had even been prepared for the ferrets that climbed up my arm and around the back of my neck. But I never expected a goat.
But there she was in all her glory, standing beside her human, trying desperately to eat as much of the church’s front lawn as possible. Not to be out done by the barking of all the dogs, she bleated loudly, claiming her rightful place among these loving creatures.
And the truth is, it wasn’t so much the goat that I was struck by, but rather the look on the face of the person who owned her. He loved this animal, and he was delighted that his church recognized her as one of God’s beloved.
In every size congregation and location—from large inner city urban to small rural country—on the Sunday of the Blessing of the Animals people from our community, even those who are not a part of our worshiping congregation show up with their much loved pet companions in tow.
They come because they know something that the church is sometimes slow to name and celebrate: that creation—ALL of creation including the four-footed, the slimy, the stinky, the crawling, and the loud, bleating noisemakers—is precious to the heart of God.
And so at these services, I did not need to bless the animals but rather to name their already blessed and loved status as a part of God’s holy creation.
—J. Denise Honeycutt is a retired United Methodist clergy. She lives with her husband, Rev. Pat Watkins, in their passive solar home in Pittsboro, North Carolina.