Thursday, October 01, 2009

All God's Critters

Three horses, three bunnies, one pot-belly pig, two fish, countless dogs and cats, one rat, two guinea pigs, one tarantula (you cannot know how difficult this was for me, and it was only a picture of a tarantula!), several goats, four turkeys, five chickens, one hermit crab (sporting a tiny plastic Oakland A's baseball cap as a shell), five sea monkeys, and one Madagascar Hissing Cockroach.

They all have a place in the choir, according to the beloved camp song. You know, some sing lower, some sing higher, some sing out LOUD on the telephone wire. Some just clap their hands, or paws, or anything they got, now... Well, yesterday and today they all had a place in one of four chapel services honoring Saint Francis of Assisi, whose official feast day is October 4.

Francis could have calmed a room full of animals with a single word, perhaps; for us at school, though, a room full of children is a zoo before we ever bring in one of God's critters. So students and faculty bring pictures of their pets (a few classroom pets make a live appearance). At the Lower School, each class makes a collage on brightly colored posterboard to bring to chapel. Middle and Upper School students emailed their pictures to be included in the service slide show (yes, we are an Episcopal community, and yes, we use a screen for worship - you may need to find a soft bunny to pet, it will settle you down after reading that).

Three pups visited our Upper and Middle School services from a local animal shelter, and two of them ended up adopted by the end of the morning. Hooray for Dozer and Natchez!

We all know how dearly the children love the Blessing of the Animals. What I forget each year is that this service makes children of us all. Every four year old who could get my attention wanted to tell me about their own pets, and every eighteen year old who could lean forward far enough wanted to pet the dogs from the shelter, and every thirty-, forty-, fifty-, or sixty year old who could stop their work to come to chapel smiled. One even told me he wept. We all went home and hugged our dogs and cats, or made kissy faces at our fish, or admired our tarantulas from behind clear plexiglass. Nice, safe plexiglass. Our animals had been blessed. And so had we.

Prayers of the People for the Feast of Saint Francis

We offer ourselves to you, O God, when we offer ourselves to one another and to the needs of the world. Lord, make us instruments of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon, where there is discord, union.

We pray for the world; for peace among all people; for leaders whose decisions affect the lives of others; for a swift end to violence, hatred, and division.

Where there is doubt, let us sow faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

We pray for all who are in need or any kind of trouble. We pray for the sick and the suffering; for the poor and the oppressed. We pray for all who have died, for all who are lonely, and for all who are grieving.

Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.

We pray for ourselves and for our community, especially for those who have been observing the Jewish high holy days; for courage to reach beyond ourselves and what is familiar; for humility to be your servants in and for the world; for grace to see your face even in those who are least like us.

For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

We pray for the earth that supports and sustains our lives; for forgiveness for the ways in which we have neglected to care for it; for wisdom to preserve our natural resources; for a renewed commitment to all that lives and breathes.

I invite your own prayers, silently or aloud.

Artwork: "St. Francis," by John August Swanson; "St. Francis," artist unknown.

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