First Methodist offering animal blessings on Sunday

Published 1:30 am Wednesday, September 29, 2021

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Throughout his years as a Methodist minister, Dr. John Beyers has blessed all sorts of God’s creatures at Blessing of the Animals events—mostly dogs of all shapes, sizes, and temperaments, but also the occasional cats, squirrels, rabbit, gerbil, or horse.

As he blesses each pet, he normally cradles each head in his hands, looks gently into its eyes, and expresses calming words of God’s grace and love.

But when it comes to other pets that humans have brought for Dr. Beyers to bless — such as snakes and a tarantula—he goes with Plan B, which involves omitting the “cradles each head in his hands” part.

“Each and every pet is special and is a unique miracle of God’s creation,” Dr. Beyers said, “but I prefer to stand back ever so slightly if the pet is slithery, scaly, has no legs, or has more than four legs.”

LaGrange First United Methodist Church, where Dr. Beyers is the senior minister, will hold a free Blessing of the Animals this Sunday, Oct. 3, from 3 to 4 p.m. at Southbend Park, located at 400 Bull Street in LaGrange. Everyone is invited to bring his or her beloved pet — even if it is a snake or a tarantula.

“We held a drive-through Blessing of the Animals last year because of the pandemic and had a wonderful turnout, and the year before we held it at Southbend Park,” Dr. Beyers said. “Southbend is an ideal location because of its expansive dog park, so we’re excited to be able to return there this year.”

Like First Methodist, many churches across the globe celebrate “Blessing of the Animals” events on or around Oct. 4, which is the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment.

First Methodist’s annual event will begin with a special message from Dr. Beyers; he says the Bible verse for the service is Job 12:10: “In His Hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”

He and Senior Associate Minister Ben Wills will then spend time with each pet for an individual blessing. The church also will give away free treats for the dogs and cats present and will have a photo booth area set up for those who would like a photo with their pets.

Those whose pets have passed away (or have pets who don’t travel well), are welcome to bring a photo in print or on a mobile phone so their pet’s life can be celebrated.

Though the event is free, donations to the City of LaGrange Animal Shelter will be accepted. The shelter especially is in need of canned cat food, heavy-duty dog collars and leashes, and dog and cat treats and toys to help them care for the shelter’s dogs and cats.

In the last two years in LaGrange, Dr. Beyers has blessed well over a hundred dogs, lots of cats, and a baby squirrel. He said he hopes everyone will continue to bring their dogs, cats, and baby squirrels — and that he would love to be surprised by his fellow humans with other kinds of animals as well.

“I know I won’t be the only one present who has learned amazing things from their pets, whether it’s a dog, cat, or otherwise,” he said. “We experience God’s love as we care for our pets, and in return, they give us comfort and unconditional love. We invite anyone to come join us so we can celebrate the joy that pets bring to us and our families.”