Seeing as how we provide a home for Sawyer, The Famous River Wonder Dog, that got my attention. Since we consider him a family member, we’re always trying to figure out how many places we can take him.
Rev. Tom Eggebeen, the pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in LA, thought his church needed a jump start since attendance had bottomed out in an elderly congregation. So, as the story went, he changed God’s house into a dog house. Included in the plan were individual doggie beds, canine prayers and an offering of dog treats. Eggebeen said he hoped it attracted new worshippers who were as crazy about God as they were about their 4-legged friends.
HE’S RIGHt about Christians loving their pets as much as human family members and grieving just as deeply when they suffer. Eggebeen said churches have been slow to recognize that kind of love as the work of God.
Dogs are capable of unqualified love and I’ve always been taught (and believe) God’s love is unqualified for us. “The Bible says of God only two things in terms of ‘is’: That God is light and God is love. And, wherever there’s love, there’s God in some fashion,” Eggebeen said. “And when we love a dog and a dog loves us, that’s part of God and God is a part of that. So we honor that.”
While there are hundreds of “pet blessings” at churches around the country, the story’s research uncovered only about a half dozen churches holding pet worship services. And, one in Boston was called “Woof ‘n’ Worship.”
CHRISTIANS believe that God created everything in heaven and earth. I subscribe to that whether it’s through “creationism” or “evolution,” God did it — humans, dogs, trees, life and nature in all forms. I’ve heard many Christians say that only humans have redeemable souls and the AP story on the doggie church service alludes to that belief. Having seen how loving and loyal a dog can be, though, it makes me wonder. The spirit of an animal can certainly be measured.
Anyone who has a pet they love can attest to the deeply felt bonds they form with the animal. Dogs can be particularly protective of their owners, extremely loyal and have more intelligence than most people would acknowledge. Sawyer, The Famous River Wonder Dog, has a vocabulary of several hundred words. We even spell in front of him, particularly words like out, toy, eat, food, go. But, he’s figured out a couple of spellings so we have to use hand signals.
IT OCCURRED to me to mention the doggie church idea to him, but he’d want to know when he could go to church with us and I don’t know of a pet service anywhere within driving distance. And, since he has motion sickness when riding in a car and has to have a vet-prescribed pill for it, that kind of puts him in a woozy state and he probably couldn’t get into the service as he’d like.
Oh, Eggebeen’s first doggie church service in LA was judged a success in that about 30 owners, approximately three-quarters of them new faces, showed up with their dogs.
Doggie church may become a vast movement and maybe it can even save a few pit bulls (and their owners).
However, from past experience, I do believe that congregational church for cats would be impossible. They’d want their own private chapel and staff.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.