THE SOPPY SHEILA SELECTION

From FREEP.COM:

You can imagine all your own jokes about dogs going to church, and members of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles have heard every one of them 100 times since they began regular weekly worship services with their pets nearly a year ago.

“I have to admit, even I call it the Doggie Church sometimes,” said the Rev. Tom Eggebeen, a Michigan transplant to Los Angeles three years ago.

He has seen the biggest growth in his aging and previously shrinking congregation by launching this weekly, Sunday-afternoon service at which parishioners can bring along their four-legged best friends.

“We asked a focus group of cats if we should include them and they all agreed the dogs need church more than they do,” joked Eggebeen, laughing then apologizing. “Sorry. You can imagine that I needed to develop quite a few lines like that to get people to lighten up and open up to this concept.

On Sunday afternoon, Eggebeen showed up just after 4 p.m. to arrange seating for up to 30 humans and their pets at the 5 p.m. service. He spread out chairs and fluffy white dog pads, using the chapel’s space lengthwise to face a side altar. The arrangement places him just an arm’s reach away from the long front row in this casual service. Occasionally, he pets someone’s dog himself. During the offering, ushers pass both a collection plate that the humans fill and a basket of dog treats that the canines empty.

The canine service lasts only 30 minutes, but the liturgy follows a traditional Christian pattern with an opening call to worship, the Lord’s prayer, a scripture reading, a sermon, hymns and a slight adaptation changing the traditional “prayers for the people” to “prayers for the people and animals.”

At that point in the service, Eggebeen invites people to lay a hand on their pets and join in prayer for the concerns of the world, their lives and their pets.

On Sunday, during those prayers, Eggebeen added: “We also pray for animals living in distress. We remember all those animals who are living under deplorable circumstances.”

During this prayer time, individual prayer concerns from the congregation are mentioned by Eggebeen, as they are in thousands of other churches nationwide. But, this list of prayer requests also includes pets struggling with cancer or other major challenges. On Sunday, he also announced that one pet had died the previous week. Eggebeen asked parishioners to remember that family in their own prayers this week.

“Here’s the simple truth," stated Eggebeen. "Where there is love, there is God. For many people, especially people living alone, their dogs are their best friends, really essential companions in their lives. And we always emphasize: We’re not worshiping dogs. We’re worshiping God. But in this worship service, we welcome the whole family, including our four-legged family members.”

COMMENT: This is something that I will definitely introduce should I ever be given the incumbency of a new parish. I just hope I don't end up in horse country.

Thanks to skittles for sending the link
to this story into MadPriest Towers.

Comments

THE SOPPY SHEILA SELECTION — 26 Comments

  1. Now that I have more details on the service, we have a chapel in which this would work perfectly. We recently took out most of the pews to create open space. I like this!

  2. I’ve cross-posted this to my blog, MP. I think St. Francis Sunday would be perfect to announce, since pets are invited to join the regular morning service on that day anyway. I’m pumped.

  3. What impresses me the most, Lois, is the regularity (thus ordinariness) of the service. This church has actually brought the life of the animals we share the world with into the everyday life of their congregation, rather than it being something they do once a year to get into the local newspaper.

  4. This is a good thing. I know Joe, whose pooch Mugsy died last week, would have brought his dog to church if it had been the norm. Now, to get PetSmart and Petco to donate some dog mats…

    And thanks, Dan. I’ll check out Calvary Episcopal – I want to see if they’re offering Communion at their service.

  5. We found the Episcopal Church when my sister was invited by a neighbor to bring the family dog to a St. Francis Day service.

    Spiritual development is a process, not an event (unless you are St. Paul) – getting people in the door to hear a little bit of the message is the first and most important step.

  6. The Cathedral in San Diego does a blessing of the Animals service where the animals actually come sit in the church for the full service. The day before that, they also have a memorial service so people can commemorate the pets they have lost.

  7. I would have thought it would have been wiser to have it the other way round, IT. You know, just incase there were any cat eats bird tragedies and the like during the actual service.

  8. Hopefully Cathy, folks are not bringing bald eagles to church!

    Dammit. And there I was thinking it was such a good plan.

  9. “A canine witness who preferred not to be named said it was when the Mad Priest launched into his sermon on Genesis 27:11, “And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man”, that all hell broke loose”

  10. I just hope I don’t end up in horse country.

    Cathy and I met a lovely horse in Skye after you abandoned us at the Inn – a lovely black mare (we think). A story and pictures will follow, but not now. Very tired….

    WV: flatelf. Me and Cathy didn’t see no flat elves in Scotland. In fact, we saw no elves at all. 🙁

  11. Me and Cathy didn’t see no flat elves in Scotland.

    It’s possible we ran an elf over and just failed to notice.

  12. And about your “we”….

    Mimi, you’re not off the hook with any elf-flattening incidents just because you were in the passenger seat, I was relying on you to tell me if you spotted an elf on the road.

  13. She normally screams and grabs the dashboard

    And not just when I spot an elf. The narrow escapes on one lane roads with two way traffic will bring on a scream and a grab.