Some were carried into the Sunday service at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in McLean, and others were dragged in on all fours, but by the end of the sermon outside of Fellowship Hall, howling could be heard. That’s because the Rev. George Evans dedicated the service to pets and animals.
“What we do is thank God for the pets. God blessed all of life. This is an appreciation of all God’s creation that makes life rich,” said Evans.
This is the third year that the McLean church has held the service for pets. It grows in attendance each year. This year, roughly 50 people turned out with their cats and dogs for the blessing. In the past there have been everything from goldfish and guinea pigs to ferrets and bugs.
The church ensures that four-legged guests will feel as welcome as their owners by setting out bowls of water and holding the service on slate tiles, in case of any accidents. Rambunctious or anxious furry guests even had a special section they could sit in away from the other pets.
THE SERVICE, INCLUDING the hymnal and the scripture, was centered around animals. As the people sang “All Creatures of Our God and King,” several dogs, led by a floppy-eared Basset Hound named Zack Handsome, began to howl and bark out their own verse.
Sharon Freas brought her Newfoundland dog, Kimber, to the service. Kimber is a therapy dog for Pets on Wheels. “We came last year and loved it. We enjoy taking her to things that we do. Our faith is something very important to us, and this seemed like an extension of that,” said Freas.
Though Freas attends Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, the people and pets who turned out for the service were overwhelmingly not from the church.
“I look out here, and I don’t see many people who do attend our church,” said Evans. “But we’re happy to have them.”
Carol Holmes brought her daughter’s dog to be blessed during the service. “My daughter is an Episcopalian. They don’t have this there,” said Holmes.
Pastor Jeff Wilson said, “Lutherans have a different perspective on animal blessing. We don’t say they are blessed now so their poopie doesn’t stink. We pray that God will bless the people through the animals. If you think about older people, single people, sometimes their pet is their only companion,” said Wilson.
“God knows about our animals and how we love them. He put them in our hearts for a reason,” Holmes said.
Evans said the Bible places significance on animals through the Old Testament story of Noah’s Ark. “It’s no accident. It’s central,” said Evans.
Marci Allingham brought her teacup poodle, Sally, to the service to be blessed. “We go to two a year. It’s a nice feeling afterward. She’s very special, so I bring her,” said Allingham.