Paws-ing for prayer: Congregants attend animal blessing in Rotterdam

'Pets are an important part of our family'
The Rev. Dustin Wright presides over a Blessing of the Animals ceremony Sunday at Messiah Lutheran Church in Rotterdam.
The Rev. Dustin Wright presides over a Blessing of the Animals ceremony Sunday at Messiah Lutheran Church in Rotterdam.

As a congregant read a prayer on Sunday evening outside Messiah Lutheran Church in Rotterdam, she was periodically interrupted.

First it was by a cat’s meow. Then by a dog’s bark. And finally she completed the prayer, with dogs panting in the background.

“Pets are an important part of our family,” said Tammi Crowther, a Rotterdam resident who attended Sunday’s services with her pit bull, Esme.

The Messiah Lutheran Church on Guilderland Avenue held its third annual “Blessing of the Animals,” a day in which the pets important to congregants and community members are celebrated. The event has steadily grown in popularity over the years, the Rev. Dustin Wright said, with attendees appreciating the attention for their furry family members.

The event was created a few years ago based on the teachings in the beginning of the Bible, Wright said. Given the focus on caring for all of God’s creations, Wright said he felt it appropriate to provide a separate ceremony focused on congregants’ animal companions.

The Blessing of the Animals is typically held in concert with Saint Francis of Assisi Day, since St. Francis is considered the patron saint of animals. This year, Saint Francis of Assisi Day falls on Wednesday.

The event has grown slightly each year, Wright said, with 30 to 40 people attending. On Sunday, there were roughly 40 people, along with about two dozen animals. All the pets were dogs, except for one couple who brought a cat.

After attendees joined together in prayer and song, Wright himself said a prayer, emphasizing the Bible’s teachings to care for all of God’s creatures, as well as the comfort people receive from animals.

“In this day and age, there’s so much talk about climate change, so the notion that God wants us to care about all of creation is important,” Wright said.

Once the prayer portion was over, attendees lined up with their pets and, one by one, received a blessing from Wright. One congregant passed out homemade treats for each pet in the line, which prompted some to jump on their owners or on Wright as they received a blessing.

For most, this was not their first time attending the blessing. Charles Zitzmann, a Princetown resident, was at the church last year with a picture of his mother’s dog. This year, he was pet-sitting for his son’s dog, Hanna, and decided to bring the boxer to the ceremony.

“It’s good to get her out interacting with other dogs,” he said. “This is great, it’s always fun.”

Jackie DeTeso, a Rotterdam resident, brought her Irish doodle, Keely, along for the service.

“I think it’s wonderful because pets are such a big part of our lives and give us so much comfort and friendship,” she said.

The event is intended to show appreciation for the animals that provide companionship on an everyday basis, Wright said. And, he added, it’s a way to interact with church-goers on a lighter note.

“Church doesn’t always need to be this super-serious thing,” he said. “It’s a fun thing and a joyful thing.”

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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