Animal Padre's
Christians Against All Animal Abuse
"Christ’s redemption is for the whole of creation!"

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Winter 2013

The Flock That Christendom Forgot: An Animal Padre’s Uphill Pilgrimage

Episode 17

Animal Padre Newsletter

Soon I was writing my 'God Slot' for the Grampian daily newspaper, and referring to my recent moving experience having knelt at the grave of Grey Friars Bobby. Thankfully, the first one to comment the article to others as well as to thank me for it was the dear Bishop's wife.

She was proud to be a dog owner herself and felt that I had touched on a side of Christian care and responsibility which had sadly been neglected within church instruction. Spurred on and blest by this response, I now felt I must start in Aberdeen what I had done in my last incumbency in Huddersfield: hold an annual animal blessing service.

Nothing but approval came from the members of the delightful church of St. Clement's Mastrick, where I was honoured to be their priest.   Nevertheless, holding 'a service of animal blessing' was something completely new to Aberdeen and the occasion resulted in full media coverage from both TV channels, the local newspapers and a Scottish national as well.

Now Called the Animal Padre

Before long - on my hospital rounds - I was not only being  addressed as padre by high ranking, retired military personnel (of which  the Scottish Episcopal church appears to have an overabundance!) but  certain ward staff were now jovially referring to me as a padre to God's  animal creation, and the term, 'animal padre' seems to have stuck ever  since!

The Bishop commented more than once that 'I would go a long way’ in his diocese and that 'I should know this.' I'm fully sure that he wanted me to ascend the hierarchic ladder, assuring me in the meantime that responsibility always went with promotion. Before long - and separate from hospitals and parish tasks - it was asked that I represent the Diocese on the Grampian Education Committee, a post to be held for four years. And there, alongside a delightful Catholic priest, and myself, was an older member, a certain Reverend Doctor who represented the Kirk. One who sadly told me, most forcefully, that whenever I addressed the meeting I was nothing but a clerical embarrassment for him! One such occasion had involved increasing milk consumption in schools. So I pushed for an equal increase in pure fruit juice. Such criticisms from a fellow cleric - whom I assumed held a doctorate in theology or divinity -quite shattered my confidence. Consequently, for a while I became absolutely mute.

Down but not Defeated

Fortunately, several councilors on a future occasion commended my comments most forcefully; while the Conservative representative affirmed he had never heard such sound common sense spoken from the floor of the council chamber in years. Such encouragement came as if on angels' wings! So why had this other cleric on the Education Committee taken such a hostile attitude towards me? I really wanted his friendship! I learned about two years on, that this clerical opponent had previously been a research scientist involved with animals. His doctorate was nothing to do with theology at all. It had involved vivisection!

Work was daily becoming more demanding.

The Bishop suggested that I might like to help the Diocese further by becoming an external tutor for St. John's Theological College, Nottingham. Yet the horrors of animal cruelty were constantly uppermost in one's mind. Shall I stir up trouble as I had by protesting previously in Dewsbury and Bradford? Surely I would be far from wise, at this stage, to stir up another hornet's nest! Entering St Clement's Church - which was half way between the Royal Infirmary and Woodend General Hospital - I knelt before the altar. "Dear God, what do You want me to do?" I asked, and the answer came clearly and powerfully.

to be continued...

Go on to Remembrance Sunday Morning Service 2013 At The Animals War Memorial: Near Hyde Park, Brookes Gate, Off Park Lane. London
Return to Winter 2013 Table of Contents
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