Blessing the four-legged friends of Kent

Jensen (middle) sits between Myara and Amanda Morrison at the “Blessing of the Animals” service at Christ Episcopal Church in Kent, Ohio on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016.

Emily Wilbur

Several barks and meows interrupted a local church service on Sunday morning when the Christ Episcopal Church of Kent invited the community and their pets to join for a “Blessing of the Animals.”

Animals ranging from puppies and kittens to guinea pigs and snakes gathered together with their owners to hear Rev. Julie Blake Fisher preach about the human and animal interaction with God, as well as the importance of human relationships with all animals.

Fisher started off the service asking the question “do animals have souls?”

“Animals were created the same way God created people,” Fisher said during the worship. “They are meant to be our role models because nothing separates them from their love with God.”

The blessing of each animal, by name and its state of health, was performed by Fisher for the benefit of the animal in its relationship with its owners.

“Blessing of the Animals” takes place once a year on the first Sunday of October.

Katie McClay, 23, of Macedonia, said she loves Christ Episcopal for several reasons, but especially because everyone at the church “recognizes pets as a part of our family, and that’s really important.”

Fisher discussed the topic of liberation theology, explaining how it’s a theology that started back in the ’60s looking at the harsh circumstances of different kinds of people throughout the world, and trying to see where God fits into it all.

Liberation theology focuses on the black experience (and) on women’s experience,” Fisher said. “There are a few theologians who focus on the experience of animals being oppressed by people and seeking liberation.”

She said that from scientific investigation, animals do not sin.

“Now, dog owners, don’t give me any of those excuses,” Fisher said. “Thank you for bringing them here to worship with us.”

According to Christ Episcopal Church’s website, they are a loving Christian community that includes and welcomes everyone. At any point in life, and from any background. They provide opportunities to engage and grow in faith at every age and situation, helping people develop their personal relationship with God.

Not only does Christ Episcopal Church accept animals into their doorways, but they also welcome people of all kinds: young, old, LGBTQ.

Kayla Hysell, a local resident and snake owner, said she likes how the church accepts “young people who even do weird things to their hair and makeup, and who are also a part of the LGBTQ community.”

Emily Wilbur is a religion reporter, contact her at [email protected]