While most worship services are reserved for humans only, Unity Church set a Saturday aside for another kind of ministry: a blessing of pets. Reverend Linda Morrow Spencer, who officiated, explained that Unity Church is all-inclusive, and that the congregation as a whole believes that animals are as worthy of spiritual care as people.
Unity Church has an active prayer ministry, which offers special prayers for those in need upon request. There’s also a pet ministry, which offers the same service for ill or injured animals. One member of the church’s pet ministry said that animals can sense the mental state of the humans around them - something most pet owners would agree with - and that the prayers and attention from the ministry seem to help. If prayer circles for injured pets are healing, then the pet blessing might be seen as preventative medicine the spiritual equivalent of vitamins and vaccinations.
The May 31 pet blessing at Unity Church was the second the organization has put on. The first pet blessing was four years ago, and the pet ministry at the church hopes to make this a more regular event, perhaps every year.
As one might expect, the pet blessings were casual, and took place outdoors. Most attendees brought dogs, although all other types of pet were welcome; one woman had a Siamese cat in a stroller.
As each pet was brought to Rev. Spencer, she said a few words of blessing while owners looked on. She thanked the animals for bringing joy into the lives of people, and wished them happiness and fulfillment; it was difficult to tell if the pets took any spiritual benefits away with them, but they certainly did look happy and well-loved.
Unity Church also used the event as an opportunity to promote local organizations that work to improve the lives of pets without the loving human families seen at the blessing. Booths were set up by A.S.A.P.(Animal Shelter Assistance Program), K-9 Pals, DAWG (Dog Adoption and Welfare Group), and B.U.N.S.(Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter).
A.S.A.P. is dedicated to homeless cats; the program assists Santa Barbara animal shelters by fostering kittens and nursing injured or ill cats back to health before finding them homes. K-9 Pals and DAWG perform similar functions for dogs, and B.U.N.S. places rabbits in good homes. B.U.N.S. may have the most challenging task of any of these organizations, as rabbits are high-maintenance pets that are frequently abandoned. One specific problem B.U.N.S. faces is the legendary high reproductive rate of rabbits. Many rabbit owners aren’t aware that rabbits can be spayed and neutered, and an overpopulation has been the result of limited public education.
The Unity Church pet blessing event provided a chance for attendees to learn more about these issues, and by doing so provided an excellent venue for pets and pet owners alike. It’s a fun way to spend a Saturday, and hopefully the church will begin to hold these events more frequently.
All animal assistance organizations mentioned in this column are urgently in need of donations, animal foster homes, and other assistance. Information on their programs and services is easily accessible on the web, or they can be contacted by phone at the numbers below. Unity Church can also provide information on getting involved in their pet ministry program.
- A.S.A.P.: Call 683-3368 or visit asapcats.org.
- B.U.N.S.: Call 683-0521 or visit bunssb.org.
- DAWG: Call 681-0561 or visit sbdawg.com.
- K-9 Pals: Call 681-4369 or visit k-9pals.org.
- Unity Church of Santa Barbara: Call 966-2239 or visit unitysantabarbara.org.