‘The Blessing of the Animals’ held Saturday
by The Press and Standard | October 12, 2018 5:00 am
Last Updated: October 10, 2018 at 10:55 am
The Rev. David K. Sutcliffe, rector of St. Jude’s Church, placed his hand on the fur and recited, “Bless O God, this your creature, and all who are involved in its care and protection.”
It was a short blessing he would offer again and again as a pet’s guardian brought his treasured companion forward during Saturday’s Blessing of the Animals, held on the lawn at the Colleton Museum and Farmers Market the morning of Oct. 6.
“On this special weekend, churches around the world will celebrate something that St. Francis of Assisi started almost 800 years ago: blessing our animals,” said an announcement of the event. “It was Francis who first introduced the idea that human beings are only one of a myriad of creations of God and all are blessed in God’s eyes.”
Approximately 20 dogs arrived at the blessing with their guardians in tow. Sutcliffe explained that he discards the term “pet owners,” finding the word guardian more reflective of the relationship.
Usually there are a few cats spread among the service, he said. At the end of the service, the pets’ guardians were told to be sure to pick up a free treat for their companions inside the tent.
Most of the pets periodically pulled on their leashes, seeking to explore the lawn or visit with the other dogs.
Stryker and Cassi weren’t inquisitive, they were working. Settling at the feet of Patrick Lighthart, they only moved when he did. Stryker is a service dog; Cassi is being trained as a service dog.
Sutcliffe said he started conducting a blessing of the animals early in his ministry.
His first, in the cold hills of central West Virginia, was a learning experience.
His parishioners had never heard of the blessing, which he decided to conduct inside the small church. It was also new to the local Public Broadcast station and a film crew was dispatched to the church.
Among the traditional dogs and cats inside the church was the guardian of a piglet. Asked if the piglet was the most unusual to receive the blessing, he said it was the most educational.
Preparing to offer the piglet’s blessing, he learned several things about piglets: they are fast and there is little to grab onto when they escape.
The piglet took off with Sutcliffe in pursuit.
While Sutcliffe tried to catch the piglet on its dash through the church, the film crew captured video of the minster’s efforts.
From then on, Sutcliffe explained, he has held the blessing outside and all the pets are leashed or caged.
Over the years, Sutcliffe added, he has found that the blessing stands a better chance of being uneventful if he has the guardian bring their pet to him for the blessing. They see him as less of a threat that way.