Pets get church’s attention at annual ceremony

It took Amanda Brown a few minutes Sunday to cajole Babbitt the rabbit into her cage and convince it that their afternoon would not be spent at the veterinarian’s office.

Instead, the Overland Park resident took her pet to celebrate the annual blessing of the animals service at the Indian Heights United Methodist Church in Overland Park. The ceremony, in its fifth year at the church, is designed to show appreciation for all of God’s creatures, great and small.

“God created all animals and we feel these special companions to people deserve a special blessing,” said the Rev. Sheila Lawson, the church’s pastor. “God loves all creation and animals do so much for us. God loves them, too.”

The pet blessing falls on the church calendar during the Festival of God’s Creation, which usually is held at the same time as Earth Day, Lawson said.

Some churches will bless pets in the fall during the celebration of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, she said.

Brown, who attends Indian Heights United Methodist, said the event was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

“I thought it would be kind of fun and you don’t exactly take rabbits out everywhere and I wanted everyone to be able to see her,” she said. “Animals are such an important part of our lives and being able to share that with everyone is wonderful.”

Babbitt, a brown and white American-Dutch rabbit named after composer Milton Babbitt, had been abandoned in a box outside the Lakeside Nature Center about four years ago. Brown said she adopted Babbitt from her sister’s co-worker about two years.

Gathered at the service Sunday were 22 humans, 12 dogs, two horses and Babbitt.

During the brief ceremony, several of the dogs yapped and milled about as Lawson led the group in short response reads, Bible scriptures and prayer.

Afterward, owners brought their pets to the prayer garden next to the church’s labyrinth, where Lawson said a brief prayer over each animal. The owners received medallions for their pets that read: “God Bless the Animals! Amen.”

The humans munched on an assortment cookies and bottled water, while several dogs were treated to doggy biscuits and water.

Two horses, Sage and Tara, stood out at the ceremony because of their size. It was Tara’s third blessing ceremony and the first for Sage.

One of their owners, Marvin Vogel of south Overland Park, said all animals, regardless of their size, need God’s blessing.