Yesterday, we held a memorial for one of God’s special creatures, a dog named Benji who was a faithful and loving companion to our newest member Jeanie, but who sadly succumbed to an ongoing illness due to his heart being too big. Jeanie knew Benji needed extra love when she adopted him as a rescue animal. The memorial was for Benji and Jeanie’s previous dog, a Jack Russel who lived to be almost 20 years old with a caregiver like Jeanie. She is really made to care for animals that need extra care as a gift and calling.
Caring for pets is a value that we have presented to the community and they have responded to. Jeanie was one of 25 mostly nonmembers that came to our Pet Blessing in October under the canopy. The event yesterday outside the Carnegie Apartments was attended by 15 people. Pets and faith are deeply intertwined for many people.
For anyone, who has had a pet that they loved, we know how connected we become to them. Dogs have always been examples of God’s unconditional love for me. As I said at the memorial, our pets help us to accept love and learn to give love to others. People are sometimes harder to love than pets, but when we practice love with our animals, we are more ready to share love with our neighbors and loved ones as well.
The event was a great memorial for these pets and the others that people named or brought. It was also an opportunity for me to get out in the community and meet more neighbors, several of which were interested in becoming members of First after the service and conversations with Jeanie. Sometimes a shared love, like being dog owners can lead to deeper connections between people. We don’t always know how we will connect with others, but I love that God’s creatures seem to be helping to lead people to First.
Jeanie sometimes wonders if Benji is a presence in her new dog Cooper’s life, when he jumps up on the windowsill, the same perch where Benji faithfully watched over the neighborhood. And I wonder if we are also living into a legacy through extending a love for animals and following that into new connections with those seeking a faith community that also cares about their pets. After all, the reason we are able to do the ministry we do now is because of the generosity of a woman who was passionate about First and care for animals, giving us our Memorial as well as to the Humane Society.
The 23rd Psalm closes by saying “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”. The word for follow is actually a term for guiding that is the same word as dogs shepherding sheep. Perhaps when we care for God’s creatures they return the favor and guide us on the paths God intends for us!