First United Methodist to welcome the Blessing of the Animals today

People Pray During Animal Blessing at First United Methodist Church, Saturday October 3, 2020 Carla Clark | For the Republic

When Diane Howard walks out of the house into her family’s backyard each morning, Blanche the Chicken comes running happily to rest on her lap.

In fact, Blanche even occasionally pecks at one of the windows in the house to get some treats or attention. Clearly, she knows she’s part of the family.

Diane’s husband and equally critter-freak Pastor Howard Boles is the head of the First United Methodist Church at 618 Eighth St. in downtown Columbus. A brief animal blessing service will be held on the lawn for anyone wishing to attend at 10 a.m. today, rain or shine.

The clergyman, with a dog, cat, gecko, and turtle also residing in the family home, seems the perfect choice to lead such a brief service.

“We probably underestimate the importance of our pets in our daily lives,” Boles said. “They are the constant companion, the one who is there to greet you several times as soon as you come home from work. Or if you’re having a bad day, they’ll come and sit there on your lap.

The service, which attracts believers from other Christian churches and people without any affiliation, marks Monday’s feast day and the day of the death of Saint Francis of Assisi (who technically died around midnight on October 3, 1226). From his writings, it is believed that he was a great lover of animals and their impact.

In fact, the pastor used a quote from Francis in a recent post: “A cat purring on your lap heals more than any drug in the world, for the vibrations you receive are pure love and contentment.

Others throughout history have heralded the character and allegiance of animals.

French statesman Charles de Gaulle once joked: “The better I know men, the more I find myself loving dogs. “

St. Bartholomew’s Catholic Church in Columbus regularly hosted an animal blessing service. Reverend Clem Davis, Senior Associate Pastor at St.Barthelemy, learned a few years ago that a dog waiting to be blessed at one of his services almost ate a gerbil that was also waiting for a blessing. Davis also blessed animals at the Bartholomew County Humane Society and also at Camp Atterbury.

The Unitary Universalist Congregation of Columbus has also hosted such gatherings. Former Unitarian pastor Dennis McCarty even used to present service attendees with a certificate making their beautiful beasts an honorary member of the church.

Last year at First United Methodist 22 people and 14 animals took part, including Cece, Dan Fleming’s 30-year-old quarter horse. All of the leashed or shackled creatures coexisted peacefully, with several noses that even touched or exchanged a friendly lick or two.

Reverend Sarah Campbell, associate pastor of the First United Methodist Church, confessed at the end of last year’s service that animals serve in a very real and practical way.

“I had a tough day yesterday,” Campbell said. “And my kitten (Indie) just curled up in my lap.” And that made everything better.

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