The cute fellow to the left is Baxter, our 12-ish year old who-knows-what-kind-of-dog, socializing at coffee hour today. Our smallish congregation held an Animal Blessing service in honor of St. Francis and St. Claire (the Feast of St. Francis was this past Tuesday). We had 6 dogs and a rat, a number of cats-in-absentia (represented by photos), and several memorial photos of departed companions. Baxter sang a bit during the hymns – and also during the Gospel reading. He settled under the pew and spoke softly to the pug two rows in front of him during the sermon. He refused communion, but accepted a few bites of a donut from a teenaged girl during coffee hour. All in all, a special day for him. Which is why he wore the tie.
We used this lovely “creed” Andrew Linzey wrote in his introduction to Animal Gospel. Linzey’s text follows (our version was modified for group use and inclusive language):
I affirm the One Creator God from whom all existence flows. I celebrate the common origin of all life in God. I undertake to cherish and love all creatures whose life belongs to God and exists for God’s glory.
I affirm the life of Jesus as the true pattern of service to the weak. I promise my solidarity with all suffering creatures. I join hands with Jesus in his ministry to the least of all, knowing that it is the vocation of the strong to be gentle.
I see in the face of the Crucified the faces of all innocent, suffering creatures. I hear their cries for a new creation.
I thank God for the grace to feel their suffering and give voice to their pain.
I affirm the Word made flesh as the new covenant between God and all sentient creatures. I seek to live out that covenant in acts of moral generosity, kindness and gentleness to all those creatures that God has gathered together into unity.
I affirm the life-giving Spirit, source of all that is wonderful, who animates every creature. I pledge myself to honor life because of the Lord of life.
I affirm the hope of the world to come for all God’s creatures. I believe in the Cross as the symbol of liberation for every creature suffering from bondage. I will daily trust in the redeeming power of God to transform the universe.
I pray that the community of Christ may be blessed with a new vision of God’s creation. I will turn away from my hardness of heart and seek to become a living sign of the Gospel for which all creatures long.
I rejoice in animals as fellow-creatures: loved by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and enlivened by the Holy Spirit.
May God the Holy Trinity give me strength to live out my commitment this day.
Mansfield College, Oxford