Normally, the Rev. Sallie Schisler, co-rector of Christ Episcopal Church, stands before a sea of smiling faces in her congregation, but Saturday some of those faces, while just as happy to see her, also had wagging tails.
The church garden was the setting for a Blessing of the Pets.
Approximately 10 pet owners brought dogs and cats for a short scripture reading. Schisler called each pet by name and blessed them afterward.
Schisler explained that Saturday was the Feast Day of St. Francis, the Roman Catholic friar who is the patron saint of animals, birds and the environment.
“I think this is a way to remember that all creatures are part of God’s kingdom,” Schisler said. “Pets play a role in our lives and this is a way to honor that, and the companionship they provide.”
Billee Schlaudt, of Ashland, Ky., brought her golden retriever, Lily. A friend had sent her a copy of a story about the blessing that was published in The Ironton Tribune. She decided to come.
“I knew that Miss Lilly has been a little stressed because a new puppy came into our home. We’re going to erase that stress,” Schlaudt said.
Church organist Karen Noble said the church used to have pet blessings and even went to the humane society animal shelter, back when it was open, and conducted animal blessings there.
“This animal blessing reminds us of the interconnectedness of our lives,” Schisler told the gathering. “In Genesis, we are told that we are given dominion, not domination, over the animals and God has given us animals to sustain and comfort us physically and emotionally. Today we honor and bless the pets who are earthly reminders of God’s goodness and favor to us and we ask long and healthy lives for our creature companions.”