All God's creatures deserve love, respect
Rev. Michelle Perry holds her pet lizard Bob as Rev. Alane Currier Griggs lays a finger upon it during First United Methodist Church's Blessing of the Animals Sunday.
By BETH DOVE
OGDEN -- All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.
The hymn, which honors animals, was sung by members of the First United Methodist Church at a ceremony to acknowledge the many ways the beasts of the field and the birds of the air affect human life.
Parishioners who attended the third annual Blessing of the Animals at the church Sunday brought close to a dozen cats and dogs to be blessed and to receive certificates.
All animals were welcomed, and among the four-legged friends were two lizards.
As long as it's not a mosquito, because I know God didn't make them, quipped a member of the congregation.
Clergy spoke of the large part played by animals in human affairs from offering loyal companionship to helping catch criminals to providing the basis for entire economies.
Local pastor Michelle Perry said the church takes no stand on whether animals possess immortal souls, leaving the question open to individual interpretation. Rather, the ceremony is aimed at celebrating the close bonds forged between man and beast.
For the people, it brings them peace and comfort in knowing God has created these wonderful companions for us, Perry said. It's our way of showing we know God loves them as much as we do.
Sharon Williams, of Clearfield, said she brought her 18-year-old cat, Trigger, to be blessed for the first time. She said Trigger, who has arthritis, likely will not live to see another ceremony.
He's had a good life, Williams said. I wanted to thank God for the blessing of this animal in my life.
Bob and Sandy Parker of South Ogden brought their frisky, 3-year-old beagle, Scout.
Jesus rallied the children to him. I think he loves pets, too, Sandy Parker said.
Congregation member Cindy Murphy, of Ogden, said she has never seen a similar ceremony done in any other church. But she finds it most appropriate, saying older people who lack companionship and those without children especially can understand the value of pets.
According to InfoServ, the United Methodist information service, the 9.7-million-member church keeps no records on how many local churches use the ceremony, which is listed in its Book of Worship under occasional services.
Brenda Boren, church director of administrative ministries, said the practice is tied to the remembrance of St. Francis of Assisi, known as a friend to animals.
Perry said the blessing of animals is no trivial matter and doesn't see a parallel in similar ceremonies performed for golf clubs, motorcycles or other inanimate objects.
There's no love in return, she said.
Albert Kineo, associate priest for St. Joseph's Catholic Church, said blessings like those administered by the Catholic church for a new house or car are really intended to ask protection for the owner.
Traditionally, the Catholic church has not blessed animals or taught that they have immortal souls, he said.
Still, some local Catholic churches, such as St. James in Ogden, do perform animal blessings, said a church spokeswoman.
An entry in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism says members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe animals, like humans, have spirits and will be saved through the atonement of Christ. Church founder Joseph Smith taught that animals will be found in heaven, and several LDS leaders have criticized the taking of animal life for sport, according to the encyclopedia.
Dale Bills, LDS church spokesman, said the formal blessing of animals is not part of Latter-day Saint worship or practice.
Blessings approved by the LDS church include those for the naming of children, for the sick and for the dedication of graves, Bills said.
Jewish blessings mostly focus on rites of passage such as a move to a new home, the birth of babies, marriages and other special occasions, said Judi Amsel, synagogue president of Congregation Brith Sholem.
Amsel said the Jewish faith has no ceremony that corresponds to the blessing of animals. However, she said, the faith was founded by herders who respected nature and recognized their dependency on it.
Even animal sacrifice, as practiced by the early Israelites, was a sign that animals were considered the best possible gift, she said.
While religious traditions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, ascribe to animals a spiritual station similar to humans, the Jewish tradition, in common with many other denominations, does not.
However, animals are respected as creatures created by God for a purpose, Amsel said.
Human life takes precedence over animals, which is why it's OK to eat animals, Amsel said. Otherwise, it wouldn't be.
The chairwoman for the Baha'i assembly of Ogden said her group does not believe animals share the afterlife with humans.
We believe in being kind to animals and taking care of them, Lois George said. We are focused on people.
However, she said, she is prepared to be flexible if proved wrong.
It's one of the mysteries. We won't know this until we get over there.
You can reach reporter Beth Dove at 625-4225 or email@example.com.
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