1. Yesterday, after spending the day with the 7th graders, I met with a family who would have a baby daughter baptized today. I like to begin our pre-baptism sessions with the question: What is your favorite picture or image of baptism? I use a little book called Let the Children Come. It has a whole page of images for baptism: including Noah's Ark, a picture of a family, a picture of a bath, a tree with a new branch grafted into it. The new father said the picture he liked the best was "the new birth." He said it reminded him of the birth of his daughter, and what a great event that was. "That was a miracle, wasn't it?" Both parents agreed. "Just like baptism."
The little girl has the roundest, most alert eyes: she was fascinated by everything, both yesterday and today. When the other pastor showed her the baptismal candle and said "let your light so shine before others..." she just stared at it. Beautiful.
2. Today was our first ever (annual?) Blessing of the Animals Service, at 2:00 p.m. this afternoon. The day dawned hot and sunny. It's October, but it was 85 yesterday. It seemed more like the middle of July. I think we even had the air conditioning on. Then, by the end of the second service, there were dark rumors of rain this afternoon. We had planned to have most of the service outdoors, with the small chapel reserved for only the closing prayer and the individual blessing of animals. But as 2:00 drew near, the clouds remained, neither dispersing or getting darker. There were some barks and yips as we opened with "All Creatures of Our God and King." My own dog was a little too curious about a couple of the cats who were wearing leashes. And unfortunately, we ended up singing a tune of "All Things Bright and Beautiful" that almost no one knew. Five members of the children's choir sang "Creature Praise." Then we all processed into the chapel, where, after one brief growl, it grew quiet. I looked out at the assorted people and beasts sitting in the pews, turned to the other pastor, and said, quietly, "Have you ever seen anything like this before?" "No."
I said a prayer. Then, one of our confirmation students ushered two animals at a time to come forward to get a blessing from one of the pastors. There were a half dozen cats, dogs of all sizes, at least one bird, a hamster or two. Someone counted 51 animals. 103 people. One older woman whispered to me as I knelt down to bless her little dog, Amy, "She's dying. She has a tumor. I don't know how she has lasted this long." So I prayed, "Bless this creature, Amy, and fill our hearts with gratitude for its being. Amen"
Each blessed animal got a little remembrance medal of St. Francis of Assisi. A member of our congregation took many pictures (I hope to have some later this week.) We gathered for a short time out on the hot and humid lawn to have cookies, lemonade, cider, and of course, dog and cat treats.
After about fifteen minutes, someone felt a drop, then another. The piano and the amplifier had already been taken in. We quickly moved the treat tables, and proclaimed the day "a miracle."