This article was written by The Rev. Laura Durham, pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, and was first printed in the Macon Telegraph. Used by permission.
In honor of St. Francis [of Assisi] and his sense of deep connection with animal life, we're going to conduct a community animal blessing on the grounds of St Andrew's as a prelude to Be Kind To Animals Week.
Catholic and Episcopal churches have long held animal blessings, often in conjunction with St. Francis of Assisi's birthday. But in more recent religious traditions, animal blessings are rare. That may reflect our lack of understanding of the place of animals in the creation. Francis understood that God created all creatures to live in harmony and share the good earth together. He understood that animals are meant to be respected and their habitat protected, not to be hunted and killed for sport or to be abused or neglected.
I think it's significant that the Macon Animal Shelter is located next to the city's landfill. Animals are dumped off like refuse without value, and the shelter is forced to destroy nearly 90 percent of the approximately 6,000 animals dropped off or picked up annually. It's heartbreaking to see all the unwanted dogs and cats lose their lives. It's heartbreaking for the folks at the shelter to have to put them down.
It seems that a great many people in our community have little or no respect for animals. Wildlife is forced into ever fewer areas of habitat to make room for more new developments. Factory farmed animals live in the most horrifying conditions imaginable. How have we as a community, including the churches, become desensitized to the basic needs of God's creatures? Are not animals entitled to lives free of suffering caused directly or indirectly by human beings?
It's well known that there is a correlation between abuse of animals and violence against humans. Children who are not loved and respected by their families are more likely to abuse animals than well-treated children. Like children, animals who develop behavior problems have in all likelihood been mistreated or neglected by their caretakers.
Pets ask little from their companions except food, water, shelter and a little attention. They give endless love to us and are more sensitive to our moods than our closest family members! Isn't it time people of faith led the way in showing to the community how much God cares for animals? Isn't it time we took responsibility for teaching children to care for and respect the rights of animals of all kinds to a decent life?
Isn't it time we helped find good homes for unwanted animals and reduced needless pain and suffering? Isn't it time we recognized that teaching children to shoot animals desensitizes them to violence and killing?
Blessing the animals gives us an opportunity to honor our companions in life and reminds us of God's love for the whole creation. #