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Conway's Blessing of the Animals

For the past 10 years, St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Conway, Arkansas, has held the Blessing of the Animals in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. While saints are synonymous with the Catholic church, almost everyone is familiar with St. Francis - the patron saint of animals and the environment.  His love and caring for all God's creation strikes a chord within many people.  And so it is that every year people of all faiths - or no particular faith at all -  choose to bless these gifts God has given us - beauty, companionship, unconditional love in a fur coat.

This year St. Peter's partnered with the Humane Society of Faulkner County and moved the blessing from the church grounds to Laurel Park.  And it was a good thing, too; between temperatures in the 90s and so many pets, we really needed a place to spread out and some shade.  We had a wonderful procession of animals - mostly dogs and cats, but I hear we had a chinchilla and a hermit crab, too. I know it's just a tiny representation of creation, but to see them all there in one place . . . well, it reminds me what a gift we have in this life.  I left feeling fortunate, blessed.  I also have a renewed appreciation for what Noah must have gone through trying to get all those animals on the ark.

This service is not unique to Conway, I know.  They are held all across the country.  It is an ecumenical service - to quote St. Peter's, "All are welcome here."  St. John the Divine in New York City is the mack daddy when it comes to St. Francis of Assisi feast day services.  Parishioners and visitors bring their pets and take their places in the pews, at which point the large doors open and a procession of everything from goldfish to camels comes down the isle. Most of us can't get to St. John the Divine, but we can go to local blessings taking place in or near our own town.

I confess I missed seeing the big dogs running in and out of the fountain at the church, but the park worked very well.  I hope we have it there again because I'm hoping for even more animals next year.   Goats, llamas, horses . . . who knows, maybe even an elephant.  A girl can dream, you know.

Want more information?  There's a lot available on both St. Francis and on the service.  Be sure to check out St. John the Divine - it has quite a story to tell and is an amazing piece of architecture. 

 

Here are a few links to get you started:

 
     

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