Church group plans blessing of the animals

Saturday, May 10, 2008
AARON EISENHAUER ~ At Sunday's blessing of the animals, a collection will be taken to support Heifer International, and blessings will be said over all creatures great, like the cattle shown here, and small.

A legend surrounding St. Francis is that he preached to a flock of birds in a tree about the many reasons they should be thankful for God's love. The birds sat attentively listening and did not fly away until St. Francis told them they could leave.

Sunday evening at Capaha Park, no one will be preaching to birds, cats, dogs or any other companion animal, but any animals who come will be blessed.

The Downtown Council of Churches, seven congregations concerned with the spiritual well-being of historic downtown Cape Girardeau, has planned a series of worship events for three Sunday evenings in May, called Blue Sky Church. The upcoming service is titled "All Creatures Great and Small," based on the title of an old English children's hymn, according to the Rev. Robert Towner, pastor of Christ Episcopal Church.

Participants may bring their pets -- on leashes or in carriers -- for a general blessing.

If they like, Towner said, "We will lay hands on them and thank God for them and ask God to bless them in our lives and in service to their Lord and their human partners."

Towner said he plans to bring with him his Airedale, Winnie. The Rev. Jeff Long of Centenary United Methodist Church said some people have been invited to bring livestock for blessing.

Eva Hillis, director of Love INC, will share a story Towner said will appeal to children and adults, and an offering will be collected for Heifer International, an organization that promotes solutions to hunger and poverty.

Heifer International donates livestock to Third World countries and in some instances to areas devastated by disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. Residents are trained in how to raise the livestock and use them to improve their local economy.

Individuals who work with animal welfare groups will be acknowledged and celebrated, and there will be special music.

"There is no sermon," Towner said. "Just mostly celebration."

The first Blue Sky Church centered on plants and trees. Participants were given a white pine sapling to take home and plant, Towner said, and the group planted an oak tree in Capaha Park.

The next Blue Sky Church on May 18 will celebrate food producers and offer thanksgiving for an abundance of food. The story for that service will be "Stone Soup," a story about a community in post-World War II Europe who pooled their meager resources to produce a great feast.

"For that event we are asking people to bring little bags of washed and chopped vegetables and poultry," Towner said. "We'll put it all in a big pot and share a little meal after."

McAlister's Deli has agreed to provide iced tea, and Boy Scouts will be there to build the fire. A story and music will round out the service.

The Downtown Council of Churches is made up of St. James AME Church, Second Missionary Baptist Church, Greater Dimension Church, Centenary United Methodist Church, Grace United Methodist Church, Evangelical United Church of Christ, First Presbyterian Church and Christ Episcopal Church.

The group also brings to the community the annual Lenten Way of the Cross walk, conducts the Easter sunrise service on the riverfront, has sponsored ecumenical workshops and works in conjunction with Love INC and Old Town Cape.

Towner said the group hopes to make Blue Sky Church an annual event.

335-6611, extension 160

Want to go?

* What: Blessing of the animals

* Where: Capaha Park at the band shell and shelter No. 4

* When: 5 p.m. Sunday

* Also: Bring a lawn chair or a blanket.

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