By Cheryl Parker
People are not only going to churches and spiritual centers to receive spiritual sustenance for themselves, but also to receive support for their animal companions. A growing number of communities serve pets in a myriad of ways. These pet or animal ministries focus on supporting the animal owners or they offer programs for the animals directly or do both. Grace Church in St. Louis has an animal ministry called Noah’s Ark, which runs a pet-food drive, has a grief support group for pet owners, supports a no-kill rescue and brings pets to visit sick congregants.
At the Center for Spiritual Living in Santa Rosa, California, Rev. Leslie Heckathorn created an animal ministry as her final project for a master’s degree in Human Canine Life Services. According to their website, the center hosts an Animal Blessing service, Animal Remembrance Service, an annual raffle to support the ministry and various workshops throughout the year.
Also recognizing the growing need for spiritual support, Humane Society has a faith outreach program with an advisory council, which includes noted spiritual leader Marianne Williamson, and works with individuals and religious institutions to promote animal protection issues in faith communities. St. Francis of Assisi would be proud.