538 Pets and spirituality: This is news! LA church starts people-&-pets service

Millions of Americans feel a strong spiritual connection to their pets and new ministries are emerging nationwide that recognize this truth.
If you’re just joining us, we published a Tuesday story from Georgia about a big Southern Baptist church celebrating its first pet blessing. We’ve also published two terrific “resource pages.” Here’s a page on St. Francis, John Wesley and the Humane Society. AND, here are more cool ideas and a couple of readers’ favorite pet stories.
    TODAY, we’re sharing another news story, this time from Los Angeles: A Presbyterian church in L.A. is lauching an experimental, weekly pets-and-people service. The idea is so unusual, church leaders decided to start with dogs, hoping that dogs might have the best chance to get to know each other in this new weekly congregation.
    They’re calling it Canines@Covenant. We invited a pastor at the church, the Rev. Dr. Thomas Eggebeen, to describe what they’re planning …

By the Rev. Dr. Thomas Eggebeen

I’ve always been convinced of the important place of animals in God’s world. Although animals were “named” by us in the ancient story, the animal kingdom has its own place in the mind and heart of God.

Some years ago, I had my first request for a pet funeral. I had no question about it, so went over to the home one afternoon, and there, with Bible and Prayer Book, conducted a service for a beloved pet. Tears were shed and thanks given to God. Since then, I’ve done several more.

In my current setting as interim pastor, Covenant Presbyterian Church, Los Angeles, a friend shared with me a long history of animal concerns, and it wasn’t long before we began to think about those who have pets and love them dearly, especially the elderly and singles, for whom the pet is a source of great love and joy—literally, a member of the family.

Who wants to go to church and leave behind a beloved family member?

So we began to think about a service for families with dogs. We decided to stay with dogs, for the time being, to help us get things going and see how it all unfolds. We thought a menagerie of pets might make a bit more difficult.


Worship will be Sunday evenings at 5:00 for 30 minutes, but with all the components of “regular” worship, including an offering, with two plates—one for offerings from congregants, and the other offering sharing pet treats with an invitation to “go ahead and help yourself for your hungry family member.”

Water bowls will be provided and mats for the dogs to lie upon (laundered weekly). Our worship space is beside a grassy space if the dogs have need of such, and, of course, everyone is responsible for cleanup after their dog.

In our conversations, and as the team came together, we were clear: This is a worship service, like any other, with one exception—ALL family members are welcomed!

For the first few weeks, we’ll focus on what we’re doing and why, but as the service evolves, the preaching will be coordinated with the morning service and the lectionary.

We’re worshiping in an alternative space, to prevent any issues with pet dander in the sanctuary. And no organ music—too hard on a dog’s ears; only a piano.

As the service develops, we will invite those attending to become a part of the planning, to offer their talents for the service and to go further and deeper into the love of God.

Sometime in the near future, we will have a blessing of the animals, with oil-anointing and prayers.

We wanted something that would help us reach families with pets. Since we’re an elderly congregation reassessing the future, we needed something that would help us make “our mark,” so to speak, on the community, without being labor-demanding. We are sincerely thinking, not in terms of how to build up the church (though survival mode is tempting), but to reach out to the community with our love.

We have no idea if it’ll work.

But our hope is to give something to people who want to worship God with their beloved dogs.


The Rev. Dr. Thomas P. Eggebeen is Interim Pastor
Covenant Presbyterian Church
6323 W. 80th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90045

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