Some people have pets; some people go to church. And, under the right circumstances, some people take their pets to church.
This Saturday the Archwood United Church of Christ will host a Festival of Animal Blessings, an afternoon full of opportunity for people who can't do enough for their animals. The Reverend David Bahr, pastor of the church, says that people respond well to a church that recognizes their commitment to pets. "Out of the love that persons have for their pets, they do indeed want to acknowledge that they are a blessing of God," he explains.
Given food to eat and a toilet to drink from, though, does Fluffy really care about receiving God's blessing? When asked whether this service is more for the owners than the animals themselves, Bahr is pleasant but vague. "That's the same as asking, 'Is the baptism more for the child or the parents?' I would say [the owners] do it on behalf of their animal companions."
But like a lot of children, not all pets want to attend a church service. Some whine, some drag their paws. Some may even play dead. So those who prefer more secular attention can just visit with an animal massage practitioner or energy healer, while their people confer with an animal communication specialist or a shaman. "For some people, it would be a reason to picket us," Bahr says of the shaman's presence. And although the church does not follow shamanism, it is open to other beliefs. Or as Bahr puts it, "We're on the left-leaning side of the Christian church."
Even so, some things are still sacred: The animals will not be brought into the church for their blessings. Instead, the ceremony will take place on the outside steps. "We're all carpeted," Bahr explains. "I know that some cathedrals with stone floors have brought animals inside -- we have some beautiful trees in front of the church."