The creation story in Genesis tells us that on the sixth day God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so … and God saw that it was good.”
The next thing God did was create human beings and give us everything he had made to enjoy, to care for and preserve.
Certainly there are some creeping things that we would just as soon avoid, however, there are other creatures that enrich our lives and bring us inexpressible joy.
Among these creatures are the ones we share our homes and lives with — most often these are cats and dogs but the human-animal bond extends to many other four-legged beings.
Many people cannot imagine a life without companion animals, commonly called our “pets.”
It is not uncommon to refer to these animals as blessings and when something blesses us we want to return the favor which brings me to Oct. 4 on the calendar of liturgical celebrations.
Oct. 4 is the Feast Day of Francis of Assisi.
Born into a rich family in Italy in 1181, Francis gave away all his belongings and embraced poverty becoming poor for the sake of Jesus Christ.
Francis saw God’s hand in all of creation and he literally preached to the animals sharing the Gospel with the birds of the air, wild animals of the forest and domesticated farm animals.
His simple life style has inspired subsequent generations of Christians and over the centuries he has become perhaps the most familiar and beloved saint.
There is hardly a garden or flower bed which does not contain a concrete statue of this hooded man, sometimes with arms outstretched and adorned with bird and a rabbit at his feet.
His influence lives on because his love of nature has made a difference in how we view creation and our responsibility for it.
St Francis inspired the conservation movement.
On Oct. 4, many churches take the opportunity to honor St Francis by holding a service for people and the animals they love.
In this simple service, one often interrupted by laughter, barks and howls, we read scripture and say prayers and the animals and the people they own are blessed.
This service acknowledges the bond that exists between people and animals.
It is a bond unlike any other because the relationship with our pets is one of mutual acceptance, care taking, nurture, protection and affection.
With the Service of the Blessing of the Animals we bless those who have blessed our lives.
Numerous churches in the Newberry hold such services but St Luke’s Episcopal Church boasts seniority, having offered the service for the past 35 years.
This year the church, located at Main and Nance in downtown Newberry, will bless the animals on Sunday, Oct. 16 at 3 p.m. All animals are welcome including farm animals.
It is asked that you bring your animals on leashes or secured in crates simply because we do not want animals to escape or be harmed. Prayers will be offered as well for those animals that have no homes and those who are neglected and abused.
This service is a free gift to the community but pet food, bedding and money will be accepted and given to the Newberry County Animal Care and Control and to fund animal protection in our community.
Members of the Newberry County Humane Society will be present to answer questions about animal care and welfare.
We hope you and your animals will come and receive a blessing.
The Rev. Elizabeth Morgan is Vicar of St. Lukes’s Episcopal Church in Newberry and an active member of the Newberry County Humane Society.