Bringing Animals Into Church
We ended (Part One) with the thought that, today’s Church has been damaged by its reluctance to preach the true value of animals as God’s creatures, quite apart from their use to humans; thereby losing many caring souls to other faiths, or to no faith at all. Organising animal thanksgiving services, and particularly services where non-human creatures can be brought into the church and blessed, is one way of repairing a little of that damage; a chance to proclaim God’s love for all Creation, reconciled to Himself through Christ, “For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him (Christ) and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven by making peace through His blood shed on the Cross” (Colossians 1 v 19).
An Earthly Glimpse Of Redemption
Following the Animal Christian Concern Service held at Salisbury Cathedral in 1988 with John Austin Baker and Andrew Linzey, it was decided that our next Service to be held there would include an Animal Blessing. Bishop John very strongly believed that animals should not be excluded from churches but that, as creatures of God, they should be taken inside and Blessed. Prior to this, it had been our policy to hold Services of Intercession only, in order to emphasise the width and depth of our concern for all animals. Amongst those present at our 1990 Salisbury Service of Animal Blessing, at the expense of the League Against Cruel Sports, were Misty the fox and her guardian Graham Cormick of the Hydestile Wildlife Hospital. Misty, the only surviving cub when the rest of her family were killed by hunters, was taken to Hydestile. She settled in so well that she was reluctant to return to the wild and adopted the sanctuary as her home. She mothered and cared for other rescued cubs until they were strong enough to be returned to their natural habitat; and she tho¬roughly enjoyed human company. Despite being amongst so many dogs at this Service, Misty was perfectly content and viewed her fellow animals with great interest! The dogs were equally comfortable with her presence and at one point Misty even had a friendly nose-to-nose encounter with a Siamese cat!! At the back of the Cathedral stood the larger animals, a pony and a donkey, who had been brought along from a sanctuary. Together with Misty, these patient creatures stole much of the attention from the dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, etc. who had been lovingly brought along by their owners. Though, not unfairly perhaps, when we remember that the fox, pony and donkey represented countless creatures which do not know the loving care of a human family and struggle to survive in what, for them, can often be a very bleak world. In an article from my book ‘Animal Welfare: Through The Cross‘, May Tripp describes her most glorious memory of this lovely Service, when those with smaller animals had been invited to take them to the front for a Blessing.
“A circle had formed around the clergy: a little child and his tiny puppy, a minute kitten, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, lots of dogs of all shapes and sizes – and Misty. Together they stood serenely as Bishop Tony gave the Blessing. Through the stained glass windows streamed shafts of October sunlight which lit up the golden robes of Bishop Tony, the rich, rusty fur of Misty and several of those grouped around them. It seemed to me, at that moment, that I had been given a fleeting earthly glimpse of the radiant Redemption of creation. There, as depicted in Revelation 5, were worshipping God the ‘elders’– the people of God, and the ‘four living creatures’– the animals symbolising His natural creation. And as there rose the ‘prayers of the saints’, the prayers of all those who cry out to God for justice for His creation, all of us at that moment in Salisbury Cathedral together said ‘Amen’.”
Why Pray For Animals?
In his sermons, Greg Boyd, theologian, senior pastor and author, gives various reasons as to why God needs prayer:-
- “Even though God is all-powerful, we need to pray because He invites us to partner with Him in changing the world.
- God says that if we pray, then things will happen. Things really hang in the balance on whether or not we pray.
- God created, redeemed, and has empowered us to be His image on this earth. And, while we have the opportunity to exercise our God-given ‘say-so’ in this physical world, prayer allows us to exercise this ‘say-so’ in the spiritual realm.
- Prayer sometimes must be engaged in with persistence. It’s not that we need to persistently beg God to do something He doesn’t really want to do. It’s rather that our prayer comes up against obstacles that require prolonged work to overcome. Labouring in the spiritual realm is really no different to labouring on a physical level. Light rocks can be moved quickly, but heavier ones require more persistence. So too, some prayer may produce immediate results, for there’s little resistance to it. But other prayer may come up against a lot of resistance and thus require more work.
- The Bible encourages corporate prayer. Lighter rocks may be lifted by yourself, but heavier one’s require help.
- There are a number of variables that affect if, when and how prayer affects the world. Here are two forms of resistance to prayer:-
- First, the Kingdom influence of prayer is resisted by the ‘say-so’ of humans whose free will is not aligned with God’s will. Prayer is powerful and effective, but given the kind of world God has created, He cannot simply unilaterally override people’s free will.
- Second, the Kingdom influence of prayer is resisted by the ‘say-so’ of fallen Powers whose free will is not aligned with God’s will. We live in a spiritual war zone. Through prayer, we can impact the world by labouring with God to resist the forces of evil through spiritual warfare.
So, prayer is powerful and effective. It is co-labouring with God on a spiritual level to manifest His will ‘on earth as it is in heaven’. On divine authority we can trust that our prayer always moves the world closer to the Kingdom.” By aligning our will with God’s will, we can speed His coming, “live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peter 3 v 12). We should aim for prayer which will lead animal welfarists to faith in Christ Jesus, and which will lead His Church here on earth to Christian fellowship with His animals. Prayer for animals is in most urgent need and our united intercession is essential. We see in the Book of Revelation that it is the saints in prayer who introduce a “new song” to creation (Ch 5 v 8-9). We should be those saints who, by prayer and by action, strive to bring about the just values of God’s Kingdom for those of His creatures who have no voice to pray, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed” (Proverbs 31 v 8). Christians, of all people, should be the “sons of God” for whom today’s “groaning” creation waits, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed . . . We know that the whole creation has been groaning . . . “ (Romans 8 v 19-22). My vision is for Animal Services to be held in every part of the world, uniting animal welfarists, Christians . . . and animals, in prayer and worship, thus helping to fulfill Christ’s last earthly command, “Go forth to every part of the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Mark 16)! If say 100 people reading this post organised a Pet Service in their Church and 100 people attended each, that would be a total of 10,000 people united in prayer for animals!! Please do consider whether you feel that God is calling you to ask your Church Leader’s permission to organise one of these Services in your area. (See this link for advice and templates for you to use or go to the page on this blog, “Resources for Hosting Animal Blessing Services at Your Church”). Thank you for reading and following our blog! Your comments are always welcome! ~Ros