Years of theologian study and spiritual training, and Scott Davis finds himself offering a prayer for a pet rat.
Davis, pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church, has taken part in an annual Pet Blessing ceremony during his eight years at the church. The service, which he said predates his tenure at Trinity, has drawn close to 50 pets over the last couple of years.
"The dogs dominate," said Davis, "the cats usually come in carriers."
Held outside the church, the Blessing involves Davis making his way around a large circle of animals and their owners. "I approach each pet individually," he said. "You know, when a dog sees a hand moving around…"
Each owner gets a personalized certificate commemorating the blessing, which is held as part of the celebration of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi on Oct. 4.
"It’s a great time to meet each other’s pets, and meet new people," said Davis.
Trinity United Methodist Church, located at 2911 Cameron Mills Road, will hold its Pet Blessing on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 10 a.m. A fall flea market will begin at 9 a.m. and continue until 1 p.m.
There is also a Blessing of the Pets scheduled for Historic Christ Church, 118 N. Washington St., on Sunday, Oct. 8 at 3 p.m. Visit www.historicchristchurch.org for more information.
DAVIS SAID there’s a rich religious history to the blessing of the pets. Mainly Episcopal and Roman Catholic churches hold ceremonies right around the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment.
When Trinity United Methodist Church went through a reform in the 1980s, an actual pet blessing service was included in its book of worship.
Davis said there's a strong tie between the service and the overall belief system of his church.
"The doctrine behind it goes directly to our understanding of creation, and of God calling everything God created good," he said. "It’s not just that human beings are created in God’s image, it’s that all of creation is to be hallowed and honored."
Davis said honoring animals, large and small, is helping to restore balance to Western Christianity, which tends to elevate the role of humans above all other creation.
"It’s honoring God’s design for the world," he said.