“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us,” writes St. Paul in his letter to the Romans. I chose the Scripture text for the coming Sunday because we’re planning an outdoor pet blessing, safely physically distanced, no congregational singing. This weekend will be our first attempts at in person public events since the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown in March.
Saturday we’ll be hosting an outdoor funeral for long time church member Shirley Young. (We had a “private” baptism last Sunday, originally planned for outdoors, but then quickly moved inside because of rain.) Prior to COVID, these would be familiar events and rituals. Now they are more complicated, more demanding, and–on the positive side of the ledger–an opportunity for our church to come together to do the “normal” things we do. Today (Tuesday) a group of us met at the church to set up a large tent to accommodate our funeral guests. It was good to work together on a task, chat, and look each other in the eyes.
Pet blessing is a great opportunity to remember our emotional and spiritual connection to non-human life on this planet. Many of us know the joy of greeting our pets when we wake up in the morning or when we come home from being away for any length of time. We have known sorrow when a pet dies. Or the contentment of snuggling with something furry. We talk to our pets, feed them, mourn them. They are family.
It is important to remember our intimate connection to non-human life for two reasons: 1) our faith, 2) our continued existence as a species on this planet. Caring for creation is an essential expression of our Christian faith. In our text for this Sunday, St. Paul writes that the whole creation “groans” waiting for humanity to get its act together. God created Earth and humanity as one organic whole. When we harm the planet, we’re harming ourselves. Which leads to reason #2: Scientists have been warning for decades about the devastating impacts of climate change. Life on this planet will continue despite anthropogenic climate change. The question is, Will this transformed planet still be habitable for humans? We have a shrinking window to make the changes necessary to minimize the impacts that are already happening. The time for humanity to get its act together is now.
This weekend two fun events are converging in the life of FCC Granby: Reaching New People Workshop with Rev. Paul Nickerson and Blessing of the Animals worship.
Reaching New People workshop will be hosted at First Church in Windsor this coming Friday, September 13, 6pm-9pm and Saturday, September 14, 9am-3pm. This event is free for FCC Granby members and you are encouraged to invite friends! There is still time to RSVP and if you end up just showing up the day of, we won’t turn you away, but RSVP will help us plan for lunch.
So far we have 16 people registered, which is a great number considering our size. I’m so glad that so many at FCC Granby are interested in reaching new people. Joining us will be groups from First Church in Windsor, South Congregational Church Granby, and others. Our team is responsible for providing chips/snacks and desserts, so let me know what you plan on bringing! If anyone would like to carpool, let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Topics covered in the workshop include:
How 1955 strategies no longer work
A discussion about where your church is right now
How to re-introduce the church to the community
How to re-arrange the pastor’s work week and get him/her out into the community meeting new people
How to develop a culture of invitation in the congregation
How to deal with resistance and change
Each church team comes out of the weekend with a 6-month Plan of Action.
Blessing of the Animals will be Sunday, September 15, 10am on FCC Granby front lawn, 219, North Granby Rd., Granby, CT. Bring your pets, bring your stufties, bring photos of pets, bring your friends, bring your lawn chairs. Contact Head Deacon Chris Saunders (email@example.com) to volunteer for set up, tear down, and to bring treats!
What a fun event this past Sunday! I’m grateful to Sandy Goldstein and Lynn Colatrella from the Stamford Downtown Special Services District for working with us on a last minute community partnership with the Bark in the Park event. We teamed up to offer a pet blessing to the folks gathered for a celebration of our canine family members.
The point of these kinds of events is for us as a congregation to get beyond our walls and make contact with people in the community who are not yet members of our church. As Mr. Rogers sang, “There are many ways to say I love you.” Offer to bless people’s pets is saying “I love you” to our neighbors. It’s fun. It’s easy. And, as you saw, people will line up to make that connection with us if we are willing to put ourselves out there to meet them.
Making these kinds of connections cannot be only the work of the pastor and staff. We had several congregation members who took advantage of this opportunity to offer blessings. Some folks handed out the treat bags we had prepared. But my intention in this was to give you, dear congregation member, the easiest, most convenient opportunity for you personally to reach out and make your own connections. This is how we share our faith. This is how we grow. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “I have said these things that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). Complete joy is complete giving, complete offering of your heart to your neighbor. There’s no other way that I know of to do this than just to throw yourself into the experience, to step into the crowd, to say “Hello,” to smile. “Would your dog like a treat bag?” “What’s your dog’s name?” “Tell me about your pet.” “Does your pet have any needs I can pray for?” Every one of us can do this. Every one of us needs to learn to get comfortable with this sort of personal engagement because this is a big part of the work of church restart. As I’ve said before, our future is in the people who are not yet members of our church.