OK, maybe it’s a stretch to say that Sadie, the cute Scottish Terrier who won ‘Best in Show’ at this year’s Westminster Dog Show, is an Episcopalian (she’s owned by Episcopalians Dan and Amelia Musser who also own the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan). But it’s no stretch to say that caring for God’s animals and all of God’s Creation is something Episcopalians have long been interested in doing.
Some people trace it to our Baptismal Covenant (page 304 of the Book of Common Prayer), which calls us to strive for justice and peace. We can understand this to include our relationships with everything the Lord has created, especially animals and the environment.
Many Episcopal congregations take this seriously and sponsor a ‘Blessing of the Animals’ service in the fall, as St. Francis of Assisi’s feast day is October 4. Churches like St. John the Divine in New York City have welcomed horses, elephants and camels into their sanctuary (surely not the sexton’s favorite day). If your church is like mine the celebration is a bit more subdued (though probably not much tamer) as we thank God for the wonderful gifts of our faithful companions.
Some of us put our faith into action in places like The Episcopal Network for Animal Welfare (www.franciscan-anglican.com/enaw), which works to bring awareness to issues of animal cruelty and abuse. Some parishes take a pledge to be ‘animal friendly,’ agreeing to promote animal welfare. Another like Trinity Episcopal in Bethlehem, PA, established an animal food bank, which supplies free pet foot for low-income families (www.animalfoodbanklehighvalley.com).
Animals are a delightful gift from God. When was the last time we thanked the Lord for the animals in our lives? Or perhaps more importantly, when was the last time we did something nice for the animal closest to us?