Christians are increasingly seeing their role in society as one that protects and cares for not just people but animals as well. Christine Gutleben in her article “Animal Welfare and the Church” speaks of a recent meeting she attended at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission office of the Southern Baptist Convention in Washington, D.C. The Humane Society and Christian Leaders met to discuss how to enlist Southern Baptists in the campaign against cockfighting. In speaking of the meeting, Gutleben states that it “illustrates what we find over and over again: Christians—including conservatives, evangelicals, Protestants and Catholics—overwhelmingly care about animals.”
Many churches offer a Blessing of the Animals around the time of St. Francis’ Day on October 4, but others are going beyond the ceremonial and offering ministries such as pet therapy programs where trained animals visit people in nursing homes, senior citizen centers, and rehabilitation centers. A New York Times article titled “Churches Take Steps to Show Their Love of Animals” talks about the pet ministry of Grace Church in St. Louis. It’s called Noah’s Ark and includes pet food drives, support of no-kill rescue, a ministry that brings pets to visit the sick, as well as a grief group for those who have lost a pet.
For those churches who want to explore the area of ministry to animals and the people that love them, the Humane Society of the United States is offering a free “St. Francis Day in a Box” for a limited time. The kit is filled with materials that will promote small group discussions, Sunday school projects, and more. The Humane Society suggests that St. Francis Day can be the start of conversations about caring for creation and looking at our responsibilities toward animals. The kit includes discount coupons for two books, a prayer for animals card, a Fill the Bowl Kit, the DVD “Eating Mercifully,” a magazine about animals for school-aged children, as well as other material.