General Convention approved new rites and prayers for the care of beloved animals Thursday.
Resolution A054 recommends the liturgies be made available “for use in a variety of settings to provide pastorally for people caring for animals,” and the committee revised the format to make it easier for worshipers to use at home.
Rites for times of transition – when a companion animal dies or retires – will be especially helpful, said Darla Schumm of Roanoke, Virginia, who is visually impaired and attended General Convention as a visitor with her guide dog Chloe. Her dog attends church with her, and “it is a loss for the whole community when a companion animal dies or is retired.”
During debate in the House of Bishops, Mississippi Bishop Duncan Gray asked why there was a call to authorize such rites.
“There has been a steady, dare I say, unrelenting call for rites like these,” said Bishop George Wayne Smith of Missouri, chair of the legislative committee.
“I’m a convert about this stuff,” said Bishop Jeffrey Lee of Chicago, another committee member. “Part of the reason for providing something is because of … the wide range of materials that were presented to us in use out there, and we wanted to something that was responsible.”
The bishops changed the resolution’s wording to make the materials available rather than to “authorize” them.
“That seemed like a friendly amendment to me and will be well received by the animals of the Episcopal Church,” said the Rev. Lowell Grisham of Arkansas, deputy committee chair.
The bishops’ debate had some lighthearted moments, with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, a former oceanographer, commenting, “I’m glad to see the whales made it in,” and Bishop C. Franklin Brookhart Jr. of Montana telling the house, “No one loves his dog more than I.”