Opening with a blessing from the US House Chaplain Fr. Conroy, the service was a reminder to uphold our reverence for all of God's creatures. The service featured readings, prayers and blessings by United Methodist General Board of Church and Society General Secretary Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, Global United Fellowship Bishop Carroll Baltimore, Ohev Shalam Synagogue Maharat Ruth Freidman, Creation Justice Ministries Executive Director Shantha Ready Alonso, as well as Evangelical Environmental Network President Rev. Mitch Hescox. The organizer of the event as well as the Master of Ceremonies was National Religious Partnership for the Environment Executive Director Cassandra Carmichael.
The blessing is timely, as our society increasingly needs reminders to show care and reverence for God's nonhuman creatures. Today, one if our species faces the threat of extinction. A slide show from the event as well as the full text of the program can be found below.
Photo Slideshow of 2019 Blessing of the Animals
(photo credit: General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church)
October 17, 2019 3:30pm
Organized by the National Religious Partnership for the Environment
- Father Patrick Conroy, Chaplain, U.S. House of Representatives
- Bishop Carroll Baltimore, Global United Fellowship
- Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society, United
- Methodist Church
- Maharat Ruth Freidman, Ohev Shalam – The National Synagogue
- Rev. Mitch Hescox, President, Evangelical Environmental Network
- Shantha Ready Alonso, Creation Justice Ministries
- Cassandra Carmichael, National Religious Partnership for the Environment
October 4th is the day of the Feast of St. Francis, recalling the affection St. Francis had for all of creation. During this time, animals are often brought to our places of worship for a blessing.
So today we will bless our companion animals and pets and those who care for them. We are also blessing our other fellow creatures—both wild and tame. The animals to be blessed today serve as ambassadors and stand in the stead of creatures—in the U.S. and abroad—who are threatened or endangered. During this service we are reminded of our call to be stewards of God’s creatures and that laws such as the Endangered Species Act help us with our stewardship mandate. With this blessing we call upon God the Creator to grant health and well-being to our animal friends and we ask God to bless our human relationship with them.
And now Father Conroy will lead us in an opening prayer followed by Bishop who will lead us in worship.
Opening Prayer: Father Conroy
THE CALL TO WORSHIP (Rev. Mitch Hescox)
Leader: Bless the Lord, all of God’s creatures!
All Clergy: And love the Lord with heart, mind, and soul.
Greeting and Prayer (Susan Henry Crowe)
Leader: May the joy of the Lord, the compassion of God, and the renewing power of the Spirit be with you all.
All: And also with you.
Leader: Let us pray.
Source and sustainer of life, we celebrate this day the wondrous works of your hands. Water, earth, and sky are yours, as are all their inhabitants, wild and tame. We thank you for creatures that nourish and serve us, befriend, enrich, entertain, and protect us. We thank you for making such diverse creatures who bring us such joy. May we, who are made in your image, care for them well. Bless us and our animal friends this day and always, so that life and energy might surround us and empower us to share all the gifts of life upon this earth.
Reading: (Ruth Freidman)
THE BOOK OF GENESIS 1:24-31 (NRSV)
And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind." And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
Reading: (Bishop Baltimore)
PSALM 104:10-25 (NRSV)
O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full
of your creatures. Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great.
Reader: This is the Word of the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE (Mitch Hescox)
Leader: Let us give thanks to God for all God’s gifts so freely given to us....
Leader: For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and sky and sea; the sweet sounds of birdsongs, the buzz of bumblebees, and the loveliness of flowers and trees;
All: We thank you, God.
Leader: For the richness of creatures’ habitats -- vibrant ecosystems that nourish the web of life -- the mountains and plains, the rivers and oceans;
All: We thank you, God.
Leader: For all creatures that breathe, and move, and have life. For all your creatures teach us about the mysteries of your creation;
All: We thank you, God.
Leader: That we may love and honor all your works, O God; That we may continue to grow in our grateful enjoyment of your abundant creation;
All: We pray to you, God.
THE BLESSING OF CREATURES AND PETS (Susan Henry Crowe and Shantha Ready Alonso)
Leader (Susan Henry Crowe): Let us pray.“Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis of Assisi to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless these creatures. By the power of your love, enable these creatures to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you, God, in all your creatures! Amen.”
· Ball python: (Shantha) The ball python is one of the smallest species of python. Native to western sub-saharan Africa, spanning across fifteen countries, they like to inhabit savannas, grasslands and sparsely wooded areas, though they are adaptable. They are non-venomous and are known to curl up into a ball when frightened, hence the name. The Ball Python is respected by the Igbo people of Nigeria, as well as in Northwestern Ghana. The Igbo take great care to ensure the freedom and protection of the python with some communities continuing to create coffins for pythons that get killed.
Blessing of Python: (Susan Henry-Crowe)
· Corn Snake: (Shantha) The corn snake is a North American species of rat snake that subdues its small prey by constriction. It is found throughout the southeastern and central United States.
Blessing of the Corn Snake: (Susan Henry-Crowe)
Leader: (Susan Henry-Crowe): These two snakes serve as ambassadors for threatened and endangered snakes in the United States including the: Louisiana Pine Snake (threatened), Mona Boa (threatened) Narrow-headed garter snake (threatened), Giant Garter Snake (Threatened)
· Tortoise (threatened species): (Shantha) Tortoises are herbivore land animals, preferring grasslands, savannas or deserts. They inhabit Southern North America to southern South America, Mediterranean-Eurafrica, sub-Saharan Africa, Morocco, and some oceanic islands. Most tortoises live around 80-150 years, though some have been known to live up to 255 years. Tortoises, despite being the longest living land mammals, are a threatened species.
Blessing of the Tortoise: (Susan Henry-Crowe)
· Red-Eared Slider Turtle: (Shantha) The red-eared slider is a semi-aquatic turtle and is the most popular pet turtle in the United States. It is native to the southern United States and northern Mexico.
Blessing of the Slider: (Susan Henry-Crowe)
Leader: (Susan Henry Crowe): Turtles and tortoises are among the world’s most endangered vertebrates with about half of their more than 300 species threatened with extinction. This turtle and tortoise serve as ambassadors for threatened and endangered turtles and tortoises in the United States including the: Desert Tortoise (threatened species), Gopher Tortoise (threatened) Green Sea Turtle (endangered) Leatherback Sea Turtle (endangered), Hawksbill Sea Turtle (endangered) Bog Turtle (threatened) Alabama Red-Bellied Turtle (Endangered)
· Guinea Pig: (Shantha) Guinea pigs have become popular as household pets in western society since their introduction by European traders in the 16th century. Their docile nature, friendly responsiveness to handling and feeding are trademarks of the guinea pig. The domestic guinea pig plays an important role in folk culture for many indigenous Andean groups.
Blessing of the Guinea Pig: (Susan Henry-Crowe)
Leader: (Susan Henry-Crowe): This guinea pig serves as an ambassador to small mammals that are threatened and endangered in the United States including the: Pygmy Rabbit (Endangered), Point Arena Mountain Beaver (Endangered) Alabama Beach Mouse (Endangered)
· Betta Fish (ICUNC Vulnerable Species) (Shantha): The Siamese fighting fish is a popular pet fish and is known to be highly territorial. Bettas in the wild are carnivores and feed on shrimp, insects and small worms. This species is native to Mekong basin of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. They can be found in standing waters of canals, rice paddies and floodplains.
Blessing of the Betta: (Susan Henry-Crowe)
Leader: (Susan Henry-Crowe) This Betta fish serves as an ambassador for aquatic animals that are threatened and endangered in the United States including: Atlantic Salmon (endangered) Atlantic Sturgeon (endangered) North Atlantic Right Whale (endangered)
· Macaw (IUNC Red List of Threatened Species): (Shantha) Macaws are native to Mexico, central America, and south America, and previously the Caribbean, though they no longer exist there. Many species are found in forests, specifically rainforests, but also woodlands and savannahs. In addition to the normal food birds can consume such as seed, nuts, flowers, etc. some Macaws living in the wild eat clay that is known to have properties that would be toxic for other species to consume.
Blessing of the Macaw: (Mitch Hescox)
· African Grey Parrot (IUNC endangered list): (Shantha) The African grey parrot has an average 23-year lifespan in the wild. They are native to equatorial Africa, spanning from the Ivory Coast through the Congo to Kenya. They are omnivorous -- eating both seeds, oil palm fruit, and insects and snails. Predators include; palm-nut vultures, monkeys, raptors, and humans. Besides deforestation being a cause of endangerment, the pet trade has been incredibly detrimental to the species. The African grey is a valued pet as they are able to learn human language making them desirable companions.
Blessing of the Macaw: Mitch Hescox
Leader: (Mitch Hescox): An Audubon Society study estimated that 2/3 of North American birds are at risk of extinction because of climate change. The Macaw and Grey Parrot serve as ambassadors for other birds that are endangered or threatened in the United States including: Short-tailed Albatross (Endangered), California Condor (Endangered) Mississippi Sandhill Crane (Endangered) Northern Aplomado Falcon (Endangered) Florida Grasshopper Sparrow (Endangered) Least Tern (Endangered)
· Bearded Dragon: The Pogona lizard, better known as the bearded dragon, is found throughout Australia, favoring many habitats ranging from deserts to woodlands to shrublands. They can live up to 12 years in the wild. Their diet in the wild is based on seasonal availability, but generally consists of crickets, grasshoppers, and leafy greens. The bearded dragon is a popular pet as they are not generally a threat to humans. Predators of the bearded dragon include pythons, raptors, and dingos.
Blessing of the Dragon: Mitch Hescox
LEADER: This bearded dragon serves as an ambassador for lizards in the United States that are threatened or endangered including the Blunt-nosed leopard Lizard (endangered)
Blessing of Pets Susan Henry Crowe calls up those with pets:
"N.(name of animal) may you be blessed in the Name of God who created you, and may you and N. (owner/caretaker) enjoy life together and find joy with the God of all creation.
Sending (Bishop Carroll Baltimore):
Leader: Compassion, creativity, and joy are ours from our gracious God. May the Spirit move us to preserve and enhance life on Earth, giving clear witness to the life-giving purpose of our Creator. May we go out into God's world and live in peace with one another and with all God's creatures.Amen.
Closing Prayer (Shantha Ready Alonso)
Resources used and adapted with permission:
- Rev. Robert Morrison and Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 1998 – 2006. St. Francis Day - Blessing of Pets Liturgy. Episcopal Parish of St. James in Lincoln City, Oregon
- Blessing of Animals by Kevin E. Mackin, O.F.M
- http://www.letallcreationpraise.org/blessing-of-the-animals-from-sundays-and-seasons. Used by permission.