The Dr. Doolittle Service


Counters
Well, I've put off blogging about it long enough... but it is now time to comment on last Sunday's service here in Faith UMC, which was outdoors and included an act of Blessing for Animals... It supposedly came about as a suggestion by the Worship Team here, to which Geoff Hayes, the incumbent minister said, "That's a really good idea... But I'll be in Northern Ireland!"
I suspect it may have been his revenge on me for leaving him to feed our cat, even though he is allergic!

But lots of people on both sides of the Atlantic have laughed their legs off at the whole thing, especially since I am borderline phobic about dogs. Different people helpfully suggested different incidental music, including, Bob Dylan's "Man Gave Names to All the Animals", Dr. Doolittle's "If I Could Talk to the Animals", or the theme tune from the Vicar of Dibley, in tribute to an episode of that dreadful sitcom when the said vicar hosted a similar service.

I won't say I was looking forward to it with great anticipation... Indeed I did check the weather channel the night before to see if the forecast high winds were goinng to develop into a localised tornado; but no joy.

However, the event, came and went, and was a genuine success. There were 12 dogs and 1 cat. No fur flew. There were no pungent little reminders of their presence. And the owners (if not the animals themselves) expressed a sense of blessing and affirmation.

But to reassure those who think that I have completely lost the plot (and to serve as a resource for anyone mad enough to do something similar)... What follows is an outline of the beginning of the service (I went on in the second half of the service to continue my series on the nature of the Church and It's Calling to be Catholic... Good subject for the day after the Twelfth!!!... ie. Having a Universal remit, including the stewardship of all of God's creation...)

After everything was over I went home and lay down in a darkened room for an hour!


CALL TO WORSHIP (Responsively)
Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord in the heights above.
Praise the Lord, all his angels;
Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise the Lord, sun and moon,
Praise the Lord, all you shining stars.
Praise the Lord, you shoaling fish
Praise the Lord, you great sea creatures
Praise the Lord, you fruit trees and flowers of the field,
Praise the Lord, wild animals and cattle,
Praise the Lord, small creatures and flying birds,
Praise the Lord, you rulers of all nations.
Praise the name of the Lord, may his name alone be exalted;
Praise the Lord.
From Psalm 148 © David A. Campton 2008


OPENING HYMN All creatures of our God and King (UMH 62)

INTRODUCTION
The words of our opening hymn are attributed to St. Francis of Assisi… And the order of service we use today broadly follows that which is used by those within the Franciscan tradition on the Sunday closest to St Francis’ Day in early October.
However, we look back not to St Francis of Assisi but to the very beginning of the Bible, and the Book of Genesis for a rationale for this service. We are told that in the beginning, following their creation, man gave names to all the animals, and they together with all creation were committed to humanity’s stewardship, sharing in the fortunes of human existence and behaviour. Throughout scripture God has used animals to point to his grace and his promise of redemption and restoration for all creation. Animals were saved from the flood, and were, afterwards included in the covenant with Noah. The paschal lamb recalls the Passover sacrifice and the rescue from slavery in Egypt. A giant fish saved Jonah. Animals were included in the repentance of Nineveh in response to Jonah’s message. Ravens brought bread to Elijah to sustain him, and Jesus pointed to the bird of the air for signs of God’s saving and sustaining grace.
We therefore invoke God’s blessing on these animals, praising their Creator and ours as we do so, and recognizing the responsibility we have before God as stewards over all creation. Let us pray:

OPENING PRAYER (Unison)
O Lord our God how wonderful are the works of your hands.
You create animals and give us the ability to train some of them to help us in our work.
You give us food from animals to replenish our energies.
You give us domestic pets for companionship.
You care for us even as you care for the birds of the air.
Forgive us that we do not look after the creation you have placed in our care.
And thank you that from before the creation of the world, you were ready to offer your Son as a Passover Lamb for our salvation
And the redemption of the whole of creation.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen


PRAYER OF BLESSING
The animals are brought forward by their guardians and, having been given a card stating the name of the animal/s and their guardian/s the minister shall pray over the animal/s:

Bless O Lord this ____________ (insert species of animal) ______________ (insert name of animal) and may ______________ (insert name of guardian) and ______________ (insert name of animal) continue to enjoy their lives together.


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