First United Methodist Ministers bless animals at Southbend Park

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

On Sunday afternoon, people gathered at Southbend Park in LaGrange to experience an outdoor church service and have their pets blessed by Senior Minister Dr. John Beyers and Senior Associate Minister the Rev. Ben Wills, both of The First United Methodist Church of LaGrange. The animals present were overwhelmingly dogs.

Sammi Wills said she named her dog, Copper, after a character in Disney’s “The Fox and the Hound.” She also said the name matched his color.

“We just thought [the event] was a fun thing, definitely,” she said. “Can’t hurt to get him blessed and get to come out and see lots of furry friends and just have a good time.”

Elaine McCook, who came with her sister, Linda Cody, brought her two dogs, Oona and Finn.

“I think [this event] is a unique way of us recognizing creatures that belong to God’s kingdom,” McCook said.

Beyers said the weirdest animal he’s ever had to bless was a tarantula.

“It’s been a number of years,” he said. “It was in a fish tank, you know, covered.”

Beyers said his church holds the event each year because animals are an important part of God’s creation.

“They often show us the marvelous love of God in a very compassionate and caring way,” he said.

“And we’ll talk about it in the service how God has used animals to communicate his love to human beings. … We do this, too, for children’s sake. So, you know, to learn to care for creation or to care for their pets as a way of thanking God for the gift of creation and being good stewards of what God has given us.”

During the service, there was a musical performance by Mari Elizabeth Gerick, who sang “All Creatures of Our God and King” while playing a guitar.

During his sermon, Beyers explained the difference between happiness and joy. He began by saying that Jesus promises us love and reading John 15: 9 – 13:

“‘The Lord Jesus said, ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.’’

Beyers explained that happiness depends on external factors, such as whether or not a family member takes out the trash, whereas joy comes from the presence of “the risen Lord” inside us.

“It’s a constant regardless of the ups and downs of life because it comes from the inside,” he said. “It is evidence of the fruit of the Holy Spirit that lives in us that helps us find something positive, something joyful, something meaningful even through the most challenging circumstances.”

He also read a paper he had written, titled, “Everything I know about joy I learned from my dog:”

“Never pass up an opportunity to go for a joy ride. Allow the experience of fresh air and wind in your face to be pure ecstasy. When a loved one comes home, always run to greet them. When it’s in your best interest, practice obedience. Take naps and stretch when rising. Run, romp, and play daily. Always be loyal. If what you want lies buried, dig for it. When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close, and nuzzle them gently. Thrive on attention and let people touch you. Avoid biting when a simple growl will do. On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree. Delight in the simple joy of a long evening walk. No matter how often you’re scolded, don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout. Rather, run right back and make friends. And lastly, and maybe more importantly, if it’s not wet and sloppy, it’s not a real kiss.”