Special Feature: At St. Mark’s, Blessed Are the Animals

At St. Mark’s, Blessed Are the Animals

Story by Claire Sheridan
Photos Courtesy St. Marks Animal Ministry Team

“You called forth the fish in the sea,
Birds in the air and animals on the land.
…We ask that you bless this pet.”
–Prayer for the Blessing of Animals

St. Mark’s United Methodist Church has a unique approach to caring for the material needs and spiritual wellbeing of animals. The church’s Animal Ministry Team (AMT) was formed in 2012. AMT has coordinated church and community efforts around educating the community about animal welfare, providing financial support to local animal rescues and shelters as well as national disaster relief efforts involving animals, providing pet food and supply donations and memorializing deceased pets. Additionally, the church hosts an annual Blessing of the Animals service each fall; this year’s blessing is coming up on Sunday, October 7th at 4 PM.

The AMT is a member of the Pima Alliance for Animal Welfare (PAAW), which is a volunteer initiative of the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona. Pima Alliance for Animal Welfare’s goal is for all companion animals in Pima County to have loving homes and humane care. PAAW has three main focus areas which dovetail with the goals of the St. Mark’s AMT. PAAW’s focus areas are: a trap/neuter/return program for community cats; a marketing campaign to adopt locally, which has become the annual Adopt Love, Adopt Local animal adoption event; and a program to help housebound seniors and disabled individuals obtain resources for their pets.

Pet food donated to St. Mark’s is taken to the Interfaith Community Services Food Bank for distribution to the community. Pet supplies received by the AMT are taken to Cody’s Friends, a local charity that distributes animal food and other pet resources throughout Southern Arizona. According to ATM, “For the owners, being able to keep a beloved pet can be as nourishing for the soul as pasta and canned goods are for the body.”

One of the fundraising events the AMT coordinates is the annual “Rummage to the Rescue.” Providing the venue and marketing, the church supports local animal rescue organizations by hosting a giant rummage sale. 100% of the proceeds from this event go to the rescues. The rescues bring items to sell and staff their booths in the church’s parking lot. This year’s Rummage to the Rescue Event will be on October 27th from 4 to 8 PM.

During the annual Blessing of the Animals, Reverend Sharon Ragland blesses individual animals that attend the service. The blessing is held outdoors in the church’s meditation garden. In the event that an animal is too large, sick, or cannot attend for a behavioral reason, human attendees are encouraged to bring a photo of their animals to be blessed. After the service, a pet photographer is available to take complimentary photos of people with their pets. The photos are later posted on the church’s Facebook page, so people may access them.

The AMT relies on donations for its continued operation, as they receive only nominal support for administrative activities from the church budget. Some folks donate money in memory of a grieving pet. If someone you know has lost a pet, consider making a donation to AMT on their behalf. The ATM also maintains a prayer list for animals. To request the addition of a pet to the prayer list, contact the team.

For additional information, contact Sandi Heilman at: 520-297-2062 or email: animalministry@umcstmarks.org

Be sure to mark your calendar for the following events, which will be held on the grounds of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, 1431 W. Magee Rd., Tucson 85704:

Sun. Oct. 7, 4p: Blessing of The Animals
Sat. Oct. 27, 8a-4p: Rummage To The Rescue

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