Church events blessing animals are drawing crowds eager to have their pets blessed. Open to the community, the services allow anyone to bring their animal companions to church to be blessed by priests and ministers. By recognizing the importance of the pet-person bond, these institutions are reaching new community members.
Unity Presbyterian Church in Green Tree, Pittsburgh, PA, is one such church, offering an annual Blessing of the Animals to connect with the community. “People have heart attachments and soul attachments to their pets,” says Senior Pastor Dennis Molnar of Unity Presbyterian Church. “Pets give us unconditional love, and that’s how God is.”
A cat is blessed at Unity Presbyterian Church in Green Tree, Pittsburg, PA during their annual Blessing of the Animals event.
Free to the public, Unity’s blessing service is held in their outdoor Reflection Garden. Each pet is anointed with oil by the pastor and their caregiver is handed a blessing certificate as a keepsake. The ceremony has proven especially meaningful to those with senior or ailing pets. The blessing isn’t the only draw, though. The event is typically combined with other engaging activities on site, including local non-profit animal rescue booths, animal balloon making, complimentary pet photos, pizza and ice cream treats, and a raffle to win a basket filled with pet goodies. During the pandemic, Unity pivoted to a “drive through” blessing, allowing people to have their pets blessed from their vehicles or outside in the church’s parking lot.
Photo A Katz/Shutterstock.com — Pastor Stephen Bauman blesses a cat at a Blessing of the Animals event at Christ Church on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
The blessings have proven so popular that Unity launched a new pet ministry last year—The Creatures of the Creator (COTC)—with a mission to share the sacred nature of all living creatures and advocate for their care and wellbeing. Petey, a rescued Beagle mix who is affectionately known as Associate Pastor Petey, is the pet ministry’s mascot. Adorned with his very own personalized clerical collar, Petey’s job is to greet Unity members at Sunday worship services and to participate in events. Petey, along with his feline counterpart, Sergio, provide musings from a pet’s perspective in Unity’s weekly bulletin. Also on offer are community classes on topics such as fostering pets, and the group collects donations for shelters in a doghouse-shaped donation box handcrafted by a team member. A Pet Remembrance Service is in the works.
Asked if cats and other pets realize the significance of being blessed, Unity’s Pastor Dennis answered, “I think they sense the importance [of the blessing ceremony] to their people. There is a mystery in all of this. God is a mystery.”