Rev. Dr. Lisa W. Thompson spoke to Chapel Hiller and dog lover Sheila Martin about her experience with the Blessing of the Animals service, her passion for dogs and their connections to people.
What did you experience at the Blessing of the Animals? What does it mean to you?
Regardless of religion (or the “Nones”, as Pastor Jeff likes to call them) you can take part in this ceremony and feel welcome in this informal setting. Chapel Hill UMC offers this Blessing of Animals every year in conjunction with the feast day of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.
The variety of animals amazed me. I was also struck by how many people felt blessed themselves and by the peace they found, especially with the eminent death of a beloved pet. Some people were looking for healing for their pet or a blessing for an upcoming surgery or health in general. As Pastor Lisa prayed for their pets, calling them by name, I saw smiles and relief on several people’s faces. As I talked to various people, they expressed a desire for a church to recognize their pet as a part of God’s Kingdom. Chapel Hill UMC totally impressed them by fulfilling this need.
What is your pet’s name? breed? age?
I like to keep busy and I don’t like to be indoors much. So when I retired, I wanted to do a sport that people of all ages can participate in. Thus, I started training for dog agility six years ago with a Papillon named Ginger. She has earned her Master’s title and is now working on her MACH. I hope to finish her soon and retire her. And just last month, I bought a 12-week old Papillon named Pepper and have started training her for agility.
What other animal organizations are you connected with?
Because I train in agility I belong to the Wichita Dog Training Club. In June the Wichita Dog Training Club put on agility demonstrations at the Special Olympics at the Cessna football field.
Because I have a Toy dog, I also belong to the Kansas Toy Dog Club. In October the Club has a booth at Woofstock at Sedgwick Park where we try to educate people on the proper care of dogs. People there expressed interest in an animal blessing. The Club sponsored Meet the Breed with the Wichita Kennel Club in March. And in April we put on a conformation dog show at Century II. I have seen the love that is bestoyed on these dogs and their relationship with their human partners, so I’m sure they would be interested in a Blessing of Animals.
Throughout the year, Kansas Toy Dog Club members take their dogs to nursing homes and entertain with dog tricks and talk to the residents. My dog, Ginger is also a therapy dog which means she can go to the children ward at Wesley Hospital. There she brings smiles to patients and staff (and doctors and nurses and housekeeping too).
12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Mark 1:12-13 (NRSV)
What animal would you love to see at the blessing of the animals?
As to other animals I would like to see, I would like for 4H kids to come. If they can’t bring their animals, maybe bring a picture? The 4H kids are very helpful at the dog shows ie passing out bottled water, giving direction, and even cleaning up after animals.
What did the gathering of the blessing tell you about God?
The Blessing of Animals told me that God has a place in heaven for animals and that was a soul searching question I had when my pets died as a child and adult.
13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:
“Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!” Revelation 5:13 (NKJV)
Our 5th Annual Blessing service will be Sunday, October 15 at 3:30 PM on the South lawn of the Church grounds.