Those passing by Wesley United Methodist Church Sunday afternoon might have wondered why a couple dozen or so people, along with several dogs, a horse, a donkey, a cat and a ferret were gathered outside, especially with such a strong wind swirling around. The sign on the lawn offered an explanation; it was the second annual Animal Blessing Service for the community.
"For many of us, our pets are an important part of our lives and they provide us with love and companionship," said Rev. Michelle Miller, pastor of the church. "They bless our lives and forgive us when we don't necessarily deserve it. To show our gratitude and to celebrate their lives with us, we offer a blessing for them and we honor the depth and mystery of relationships among the different species of creation."
Miller and her husband, Rev. Rob Kopp, pastor of Thief River Falls United Methodist, conducted the service, which included a scripture lesson (Genesis 1:20-25), prayers and blessings. People could either bring their pets up to Rev. Miller to be blessed individually or wait for one of the pastors to come around and do so where they sat.
What would a service be without singing? Attendees sang two songs appropriate for the occasion, "All Things Bright and Beautiful" and "A Place in the Choir," a light-hearted piece where the singers not only croon a tune but also make animal sounds like moos and howls. In fact, on the program under the title it says, "Sing along...or just make animal noises in the right spot."
A free-will offering was taken for the Humane Society of Polk County to help with medical expenses related to a dog in its care that was thought to have been hit by a train.
Fellowship time was a bit noisier than those following regular church services, Miller acknowledged.
"They're getting to know each other, and that's not always a quiet thing with dogs," she said.
The only casualty occurred when Miss Kitty, the lone cat at the service whose owners had her on a leash, encountered Jake, a huge but very laid-back Newfoundland. She hissed ferociously and pawed at the dog, possibly scratching him. But Jake took it all in stride and was still willing to become friends, although Miss Kitty had other ideas.