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      The Blessing of the Pets:
      A Familiar Christian Ceremony

      Although some comments I have heard indicate that some of my fellow-members at Huffman United Methodist Church found the recent Blessing of the Pets ceremony amusing or unusual or quaint or merely cute or just plain silly, a quick search of U.S. church websites actually shows that such ceremonies have long been and still are fairly common in all sorts of Christian churches all over the United States. To begin with, I found oodles of examples of such ceremonies in both large and small cities from one end of the U.S. to the other. Chicago (Illinois), Cleveland (Tennessee), Florissant (Missouri), Hamden (Connecticut), Indianapolis (Indiana), Olive Branch (Mississippi), Tempe (Arizona), Tuscaloosa (Alabama), Woodlands (Texas) -- in all those villages, towns, and cities there are Christian churches which regularly schedule a Blessing of the Pets ceremony, usually on the Saturday which is closest to October 4, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. (Obviously! St. Francis is the patron saint of animals!) Also I discovered that all sorts of denominations conduct such a ceremony each year. Christ Church Episcopal, Good Shepherd Church of Christ, Holy Cross Episcopal Church, Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Church, Lutheran Church of the Atonement, Mount Carmel Church of Christ, St. John United Church of Christ, St. Therese of Lisieux Roman Catholic Church, St. Peter's Episcopal Church, and Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church -- from the Church of Christ to the Catholics and from the Episcopalians to the Presbyterians, both liberal and conservative Christians happily attend the Blessing of the Pets at their local churches. Here's one final example: just down the road from us at Christ Church Episcopal in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the church webmaster has posted a few dozen photos from their October 2005 Blessing of the Pets. The images are of elderly people with their poodles and bull dogs, little children with a wide variety of puppies, hounds, and pooches, a young married couple with their handsome springer spaniel, and an obviously weary surgeon from Druid City Hospital -- still in his scrubs -- sitting on the grass with his liver-colored bird dog. Clearly there are bunches of Christian folk who have been taking the Blessing of the Pets ceremony quite seriously and for quite a long time.

      Note: On October 27, 2006, Huffman United Methodist Church held a Sunday Evening Service called the Blessing of the Pets. That's the first time in my memory such a service has been held at that church. Some of the people I heard discussing the service were making wise-cracks and jokes. In short, they acted like the service was weird and unheard-of.