Monday, November 19, 2007

New Service Idea

Greta, MyBerner

St Francis Episcopal Church, Stamford, CT
Monthly Service for Pets and Their People

Yesterday Greta (my Bernese Mountain Dog, pictured above. who is now 80+ pounds of energy), children and I attended a Eucharist designed for pets and their people. It is a simple Eucharist (no music, except for the growls, barks, whines, and excited yips), held in the sanctuary, with an especially relevant message and prayers for pets and the people that love them. Perhaps most touching was the story of the family that drove from two states away for a special healing prayer for their very ill dog. They had heard about the service through a Google Internet search.

At communion we all gathered at the altar with our pets (all dogs). The people received communion and the pets received a blessing (spontaneously it appeared, Greta’s blessing—as she dropped the half chewed bulletin from her mouth and opened her huge puppy mouth to tug on the end of the priest’s stole—was for “a long life of continued friskiness!” Right now I could do with a little less frisky.)

Besides enjoying worshipping with our new four legged addition, I was struck by this congregation’s ability to connect with pet-loving people from the wider community that were not members of the congregation. The priest said that many people attend services only on that one Sunday per month for the pet service, thus forming a new pet/people centered congregation.

Do you live in an area where dogs and other pets are a vital part of the community? If so, you might consider a monthly pet service. Post signs at the dog park, at the beach, or other places dog lovers frequent. Or even consider holding the service at one of these popular dog spots.

St. Francis in Stamford offers the service at 4PM (a great time for even the most tired teenager to attend!). If you would like more information, or to speak with the staff, visit
or call 203.322.2949.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Member Welcome and Incorporation

Greetings small church friends!

As welcome and incorporation has been a topic of discussion in the past (remember "John's Story?) I would like to recommend a book I just finished. It is Beyond the First Visit: The Complete Guide to Connecting Guests to Your Church, by Gary L. McIntosh.

This book will be especially helpful to any congregation seeking to develop an INTENTIONAL plan for welcome and incorporation. It is filled with interesting facts (ex: A person makes eleven decisions with in the first seven seconds of arrival), step-by-step instructions (ex: a four step plan for follow-up, page 121) and suggestions (loose the word visitor and replace it with guest, drawing a metaphor between how we plan for a guest at our home vs. how we receive a visitor).

What I liked about this book is that it goes beyond "the problem is" thinking, and instead offers positive ways forward. It also grasps the fact that we are in a changing world and our ministry context is changing, that it is about the needs of our wider community, and that opportunities for spiritual transformation must abound in the healthy and vital congregation.

A great read for a group study...