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Companion Animal Ministry

One of the real blessings of church communities is that they turn out in full force when a crisis hits. If you’re in the hospital, or had an accident, or a loved one has died, any good church community is going to be there to offer pastoral care, food, and all sorts of comfort. But what happens to your cat when you’re in the hospital? Or what if you’re convalescing and can’t manage to walk the dog in the middle of the day? Not being able to provide adequate care for an animal you love, one you consider to a member of the family, only adds to an existing crisis in your life. It was out of that concern that the Animal Companion Care (ACC) program was formed.

ACC started at Derry Presbyterian Church (Hershey, PA) in the spring of 2006. It was originally formed to provide care for people’s companion animals when they had a family emergency, a health or other crisis. A call went out in the congregation for volunteers would be available to provide emergency short-term care for people’s domestic animals. But an overwhelming number of volunteers signed up, and so the program quickly expanded. Now we’re also calling on folks who have a sick or dying animal, or people whose animals have died. We send out condolence cards, and we make ourselves available if people just want to talk. The clergy and church staff have their antennae up for needs in this area and pass them along to the program coordinator as they come in, but word is also spreading in the congregation. We’ve even created a small booklet of prayers for sick, dying, or deceased animals for people who need some resources at a time of crisis.

There are a few legal details any church contemplating this kind of ministry needs to attend to. We’ve had release forms drawn up for the volunteers, acknowledging that there are risks in caring for animals and that they won’t hold the owners or the church liable for being bitten or scratched or whatever. The animals’ owners also need to sign a release saying that they won’t hold the church or volunteers liable for any inadvertent damage or harm. The legalities probably differ from location to location, but in our area, because we are providing volunteer (versus professional and paid) care, we believe that these two legal wavers are adequate.

This program began with great enthusiasm for the ministry, but a little skepticism, perhaps, that there would be lots of volunteers, or great needs for its services. There is still concern, in some corners, that parishioners who don’t have a deep bond with animals will raise concerns about the ministry, but so far this hasn’t happened. We have all been surprised, however, at the enthusiastic response from the congregation. Suddenly people are talking about their animals at church; beloved pets weren’t just the domain of children anymore. And the folks who have had sick or dying animals have truly appreciated the phone calls and cards from the volunteers. People love their animals deeply, and are so grateful that there are others who not only care about animals, but are willing to listen to those who are struggling with sick or dying companions animals.

The program is even expanding at this point. When people visit our congregation and leave their address with us, we follow up by dropping in on them for just a couple minutes to leave them a bag of goodies and information about the church. Since many of the volunteers out calling on visitors were met at the door by the family dog or cat, the new visitor bags now include information about our Animal Companion Care ministry. Not only are new members warmly welcomed at our church; we welcome their animals as well.

For more information, please contact Debra Farrington through her website: www.debrafarrington.com.


 

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God's Creatures Ministry is committed to spreading God's compassion to all He has made based on The Scriptures. Although we are a Christian Ministry, we encourage all to have their own animal welfare committee in their community. We extend our resources to those who would like to learn more or begin their own God's Creatures Ministry as an extension of us. God created us to have a vegetarian diet and commissioned us to protect His animals. Instead, we have exploited them for our entertainment, fashion, appetite and useless, torturous research. These creatures have the right to live as they were created to live. Because we live IN this world, but are not OF this world, we strive to bring God's mercy and justice to all. We live in God's Kingdom now where Jesus, The Sacrificial Lamb, The Prince of Peace, The Lion of Judah reigns. We look forward to that day when all of creation will be 'set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God' (Romans 8:21) where a little child will lead and guide God's creatures (see Isaiah 11:5-9).


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