Pets and humans raised their voices together in worship for a unique service last Saturday.
First United Methodist Church's pet ministry - Hearts, Hands and Paws - held its second annual Blessing of the Pets ceremony.
The event featured a brief service for church members and their furry friends with praise and worship songs and a message from Pastor DG Giordano. Following the service, Giordano prayed over each of the pets and their families. After the blessing, families were given a bookmark with information about the church and the ministry's other activities.
Larry Wilson, top, gets a kiss from his boxer, Kody, as First United Methodist Church’s pet ministry — Hearts, Hands and Paws — held its second annual Blessing of the Pets ceremony last Saturday. Above, the crowd at the ceremony sings praise and worship songs. Left, Pastor D.G. Giordano blesses corgi Ariana.
The ministry is focused on serving people who have a love of pets and using that interest to minister to others. While the group is solely based out of First United at this time, the community is invited to outreach events the group holds, like the blessing ceremony.
Ann Wilson, the coordinator of Hearts, Hands and Paws, orchestrated the installment of the ministry last year, though she initially didn't see herself fulfilling that need. Wilson doesn't consider herself a "hands-on animal person" and only had her first dog after she and her husband married 13 years ago. After selling homemade items at pet events and craft shows to support the rescue from which she and her husband adopted their dog, she began to notice that pets bring people together.
"I wondered how we could help each other and our pets if we got a lot of pet lovers together and tried to show God's love in this way. I mentioned this fuzzy idea to one of my pastors and she said that there are people who actually do pet ministry, so I wasn't crazy," Wilson said.
She wrestled with the decision to start the ministry and prayed about it for a while, beginning the outreach in the spring of 2013.
Currently, the ministry has about five active members who look to add a spiritual component to their program to set them apart from secular agencies that also work with pets and their owners.
"We feel our pet ministry - partly a misnomer; we want to work with people as much as pets - is important because we can all think of great agencies that help people in need: Red Cross, Shepherd of the Street, Family Promise and many others. Besides the SPCA or a few shelters and rescue groups, what other agencies are there for people who encounter pet-related difficulties and need help?" Wilson said.
The group has an education component. Last fall, it did a book study on what Scripture says about God, animals, creation and human's place in that creation in relation to animals.
The ministry also looks to serve those dealing with the grief of losing a pet. Hearts, Hands and Paws is planning a celebration of life in early November for those who have lost pets to join with others who understand their grief.