The following order, adapted from Dr. Laurence Stookey’s “Service for the Blessing of Animals” (BOW 608) may be used in a variety of settings. It may be added either as a response to the Word or as part of an extended rite of sending in any Sunday service. It could also stand alone, no sermon or other elements necessary, as a separate rite for a gathering at another time. It is recommended for use near or on October 4, the ecumenical observance of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.
We add one addition to the notes before the service proper in the original resource. Since many of our churches are located in places where larger animals or movable plants cannot be accommodated, if your congregation or community wishes for larger animals or movable plants to be blessed, either hold this service in a large outdoor space where they can be accommodated (such as a public park), or encourage persons to bring photographs of them to be used during the time of the blessing. The same advice may be offered for animals of any size who may not “play well with others.”
GATHERING AND GREETING
When most animals and plants and their caretakers have arrived, the leader invites all to form a large circle around the table. The leader begins:
God has blessed and filled the earth with many kinds of inhabitants,
on land, underground, in the sky,
and in the waters of the earth.
All forms of life contribute to our the richness of all life,
including human life.
Praised be our God through all creation.
Animals of every kind were saved from the flood,
and the renewal of plant life signalled the end of the flood,
and partakers in God’s promise never again to destroy the earth by flood.
The paschal lamb and bitter herbs
are living signs among our Jewish siblings
of the passover that brought them deliverance
from slavery and oppression. (EXODUS 12:3–14)
A giant fish saved Jonah, and a wild bush sheltered him; (JONAH 2:1–10)
Ravens brought Elijah bread from the grain of the earth
and meat from the animals; (1 KINGS 17:6)
Animals were included in the repentance of Nineveh; (JONAH 3:7)
and all forms of life share in Christ's redemption of all God's creation.
God has blessed us through all creation.
So we have come to praise God for all of our animal and plant companions,
and seek God’s blessing upon these we have gathered with us today,
[in body or in image].
HYMN or Song
Suggested from UMH
122 God of the Sparrow, God of the Whale
144 This is My Father's World
147 All Things Bright and Beautiful
152 I Sing the Almighty Power of God
149 Cantemos al Senor (Let's Sing unto the Lord)
Suggested from Zion Still Sings
17 God Made Me
Suggested from The Faith We Sing
2059 I Am Your Mother
2061 Praise Our God Above
Suggested from Worship & Song
3018 Creation Sings
God created us and placed us on the earth
to be stewards of all living things,
therefore let us proclaim the glory of our Creator, saying:
O God, how wonderful are the works of your hands.
Blessed are you, O Lord of the Universe; you create the animals
and give us the ability to train them to help us and other creatures in our work. R
Blessed are you, O Lord of the Universe;
you give us and other creatures food from plants and animals
to replenish our energies. R
Blessed are you, O Lord of the Universe; for the sake of our comfort
you give us domestic animals and beautiful plants as companions. R
Blessed are you, O Lord of the Universe; you care for us
even as you care for the lilies of the field
and the birds of the air. R
Blessed are you, O Lord of the Universe;
in Christ, the Lamb, you have made us your children.
In grain from the field and the fruit of the vine.
you sustain our lives in him. R
PRAYER OF BLESSING
The leader says the following prayer with hands outstretched or may touch and bless each animal, plant, or image. If there are many animals and plants to be blessed, consider inviting more persons to offer the hands on blessing.
Bless, O Lord, your creature(s), (Name).
Sustain (her, him, it, them) in life,
fill our hearts with thanksgiving for (his, her, its, their) being,
and our hands with mercy toward (him, her, it, them) all our days. .
SONGS DURING THE ACT OF BLESSING
See suggestions above.
DISMISSAL WITH BLESSING
May God, who created the plants and animals of this earth,
continue to protect and sustain us all,
now and forever. Amen.
Copyright: “A Service for the Blessing of Animals” Copyright © 1992 UMPH. Adapted 2017 by Taylor Burton-Edwards, with permission.