The Herald Bulletin

October 6, 2013

Animals come to church for blessing

By Zach Osowski
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON — Despite a downpour, members of the Trinity Episcopal Church congregation still showed up for an animal blessing on Sunday.

Bishop Bill Smalley led the blessing of five dogs and two cats.

This is the fifth year Smalley has performed an animal blessing. Previously, the church held the blessing service at Shadyside Park, where they got a plethora of animals including a horse one year.

Smalley said because the blessing turned into a more social gathering, they decided to move it to the church where they could serve refreshments.

The church in Anderson is not the only one to do animal blessings. Smalley said their sister churches in Muncie and Richmond also perform similar services honoring God's creation. Camp Chesterfield, the Spiritualist camp in Chesterfield, also had an animal blessing ceremony Sunday afternoon.

"We do these because of our need to honor creation," Smalley said.

Smalley read from a prayer of St. Francis of Assisi who was known for celebrating animals.

"We love the work Francis did," he said. "In addition to the blessing we do a celebration ceremony near Earth Day as well."

The day was highlighted by the pets brought in by members of the congregation. Dallas and Jan Foster brought in Lacey, their rescue dog who is a regular at the church.

"I bring her in all the time," said Jan Foster, who has been a member of the church for 40 years. "She's definitely a church dog."

Janet Knick and her husband, Bob, brought in their 8-year-old toy fox terrier, Kelsey, for the blessing.

"We feel like it is very important to have all animals blessed," Janet Knick said. "That's why we bring her in."

While there were no unusual animals at this year's service, Smalley said he has had his share of interesting pets brought in to receive a blessing. In addition to the horse, he's also blessed guinea pigs, hamsters and occasionally birds.

While there is no restriction on what kind of animals people can bring in, the church does ask that the animals be on a leash while inside the building in order to keep the peace. Some of the dogs, like Kelsey, don't like other canines, although she seemed perfectly happy on Janet Knick's lap.

"She loves people," she said as she laughed. "She just doesn't like other dogs."

Heather Caudill and daughter Keirsten brought their pet cat, Gabby, to be blessed. Gabby spent most of the service perched on Heather Caudill's shoulder like a pet parrot.

"She does that all the time," Heather Caudill said. "I'll be walking around the house and she'll just lay on my shoulder."

After a couple of songs and a reading from Genesis, Smalley went around to each of the animals individually and blessed them by placing his hand on them. He even blessed a cat via picture. A member of the congregation couldn't make it to the service but managed to get a picture of his cat to Smalley for the blessing.

All of the interactions went without a problem, but Smalley said he wasn't so lucky last year when a cat decided to chomp down on his hand.

"There were four of them in a baby stroller," Smalley said, "and I went to bless one of them and the cat laying next to him just bit my hand."

Bodily harm is all part of the risk, though, when someone is trying to bless a large amount of animals, Smalley said. He's never been asked to bless a snake; although, he said, as long as it was on a leash or caged, he would give it a shot.

Contact Zach Osowski at 640-4847 or zach.osowski@heraldbulletin.com.