Learning about animal protection ministries
By Daisy Mae Delray
Oct 5, 2013, 00:12
"Regardless of one's faith tradition, denomination, or religious philosophy, two words that are universally shared by all are compassion and stewardship."
– The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane, D.D., Episcopal Bishop of Washington, D.C.
In 2007 I attended a presentation at Yoga in Daily Life in Alexandria, Virginia on a new program of the Humane Society of the United States. The presenter was the new director of what is now the Faith Outreach Program, Christine Gutleben. She talked to about 150 of us attendees about the relationship between humans and the animals they rely on for food and other uses. “As stewards and caretakers, we have a responsibility towards animals and through this program we are encouraging people of all faiths to align their principles with their daily lives,” said Gutleben.
Concern for animal welfare is a longstanding tradition in many religious communities. Almost all religious traditions have statements regarding animals; The HSUS web site has a listing of the denominations in the United States who have adopted official statements on animal welfare and animal protection. The website is www.humanesociety.org. Click on Our Work and then on Departments and Affiliates to find Faith Outreach.
One of the statements comes from Billy Graham, one of the Southern Baptist Convention's best know leaders. Graham received a letter asking if the Bible says anything about how humans should treat animals. He responded, "The Bible commands us to take care of animals.. In fact, "said Graham, "the Bible says we must never treat any part of God's creation with contempt. When we do, we are indirectly treating our Creator with contempt."
I spoke with Christine Guteleben again a couple of days ago and asked her how things were going. "We have really been thrilled with the response over the past few years." Christine said. " Our Faith Outreach Program is actively engaging people and institutions of faith with animal protection issues, on the premise that religious values call upon all of us to act in a kind and merciful way towards all creatures." In the past couple of years there have been numerous meetings of national faith leaders from many different faiths in St. Louis and in Washington, D.C. "So much has come out of these meetings that we are now moving to more local settings so we can meet with and reach their congregations." Christine told me. That is really exciting to hear.
Out of these discussions and conferences have come some concrete, practical ways for churches to put their stewardship into practice. Available for downloading, a 13 page booklet "Animal Protection Ministries: A Guide for Churches" is designed to help congregations connect with the animals in their homes, their backyards, and around the world in new and faithful ways.
A couple of these really caught my eye. October the 4th is St. Francis day held in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals. The HSUS St. Francis Day in a Box kit contains books, DVDs and other resources that will promote small group discussions, Sunday school projects and more projects that honor the saint's devotion to God's creations.
The HSUS Fill the Bowl Project is a guide to starting a pet food bank to help low-income pet owners keep their animals rather than surrender them to shelters because they can't afford their care. This is a great way to involve our youth in helping. For some people, their pets are all they have. The Church of the King in New Orleans see the importance of that bond when they hold monthly clinics to provide medical and dental services to low-income people in the city so they include veterinary check-ups to their four-legged companions.
We learned during Katrina that people will not leave their pets behind during an emergency. People love their pets and these loving animals are valued members of the family. With times as tough as they are today, many people are having to make painful decisions about their pets. The Animal Shelter in Hancock County gets many animals that are surrendered because the owners can no longer afford to feed them. This is so very sad for the owners and their pets. If you would like to have someone come and talk to your church about ideas to cultivate concern for pets, wildlife, farm animals, and other creatures please contact Tina Richardson at 228.222.7018 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep your tail high and your feet dry. Love Daisy Mae
Daisy Mae Delray, a certified seizure alert dog, began writing for the Delray Sun Newspaper in 2004. From 2005 to 2011 she was on staff for the two Alexandria Virginia newspapers, The Alexandria Gazette and the Alexandria Times. She has also written for the Washington Post, Her focus is on the human pet companion bond. Among her most impressive stories was an interview with Congressman Jim Moran who quoted her on the floor of the House of Representatives in support of animal anti-cruelty legislation.
Christina Richardson, Daisy Mae’s human companion, is a management consultant who moved to Bay Saint Louis in September 2011. She began covering news for the Delray Sun shortly after Daisy Mae wrote her first column. She subsequently wrote for the Alexandria Gazette and then the Alexandria Times. She was a staff reporter specializing in business news and general interest stories.