May 2019

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First Thoughts : Revd Jane

Many of you will know Gracie, our four year old black labrador/golden retriever. She’s a popular visitor at the Church of the Good Shepherd and has been known to ‘shake a paw’ during the Peace.

I often think that gentle Gracie is a wonderful assistant to me in my ministry. So many people stop me when I am out and about with her, to give her a pat and then have a chat with me in my ‘dog collar’. She seems to bring delight wherever she goes, wagging her tail.

It is then a wonderful thing to be able to offer a pet service at the church this month. Pets can bring us so much joy and it’s fantastic to celebrate this, remembering their companionship, and praying too for those who work for their welfare.

We often forget animals in our regular worship, so it is good at least once a year to give thanks for our fellow creatures.

There is some substantial theology to support us in this pet service adventure. We can remember that Jesus in the Gospel of Luke said, ‘Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?’, and goes on, ‘And not one of them is forgotten before God.’

The sparrows in question are strouthia, the smallest kind of bird, sold cheaply in the first-century Palestinian markets for food. The tiniest creatures bought and sold for next to nothing are not forgotten by the Creator. All creatures have intrinsic value for God.

We can consider too that Jesus, who is identified as the Word at the beginning of John’s Gospel, was there from the beginning and the co-creator with God through whom all things came to be. All animals are God’s creations, and Jesus took on the same organic flesh and blood which we share with other mammalian creatures.

It’s astonishing that we humans are not so different genetically to many other mammals. According to some scientific articles I found on the internet, we are 96% genetically similar to chimpanzees, 90% similar to cats, 85% to mice and 80% to cattle. No wonder St Francis of Assisi, who is famous for his love of animals, was able to claim kinship and call out to all of creation as brother and sister in his famous canticle of praise.

So at our pet service in May we shall sing:

All things bright and beautiful,
all creatures great and small,
all things wise and wonderful,
the Lord God made them all.

And I shall take great joy in blessing all the pets which come along in shapes and sizes (or photographs of people’s pets if this is easier for the owners).

This is the first year that we are running the pet service as a fundraiser for the Dogs Trust (Shoreham), a charity doing much valuable animal welfare work in our parish. We shall find out more about what they do and meet some of those involved. (Tea and cake are available afterwards in the hall, and the money from this will go to the St Francis Fund.)

Gracie is looking forward to the big day already!

Revd Jane


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