All God's creatures: Rohret tackles her pet project Sunday

Wednesday, August 31, 2011
PHOTO BY RUSS MITCHELL

Is she unleashing a new avenue of worship or answering to a higher collar?

Either way, Rev. Dr. Sarah Rohret has added a twist to the Labor Day weekend boat-in worship at Clare Wilson Park.

The pastor at Calvary United Methodist Church is encouraging caretakers to bring their pets to the 7:30 a.m. "Blessing of the Animals" Sunday service at Clare Wilson Park, a site between the Highway 71 bridge and the walking bridge between East and West Lake Okoboji.

Plenty of worshipers already bring pets with them to the 20-year-old, boat-in service. Furry friends come in cars, on leashes or in the boats, according to Rohret.

"This is the first time I've done a Blessing of the Animals," she said. "I've been talking about it for a couple of years and have a lot of people in the congregation who love their animals."

The pastor tinkered with the idea of hosting Blessing of the Animals at Calvary's church site in Arnolds Park. Allergies always surfaced as a concern. And there was always the " what do people do with messes," issue according to Rohret.

The boat-in service seemed like a natural fit. Rohret will be sharing a message based on St. Francis of Assisi's ministry to both people and animals.

"In the book of Revelation, it says all creation will worship God forever," she said. "And that creation and the animals and all of the earth is a part of God's eternal gift. I believe that animals are precious to God and they should be respected by us, if not loved by us. Our relationships with our animals are just as important as our relationships to each other. God honors that, so we should honor that for each other."

Rohret owns two cats along with Maddy, a mixed-breed "ray of sunshine" from the Human Society animal shelter in Charles City.

"Maddy is the unconditional love," she said. "No matter how much the world kicks you around, or how disappointed you are in yourself, she always thinks you're wonderful. She is always excited to be with you."

She later added: "I think pets can teach us a lot about the unconditional acceptance that we don't sometimes give each other."

After the sermon people and pets will be invited to come forward for a special blessing by the pastor and to receive a treat. She just hopes the cats and dogs don't fight like, well, you get the idea.

There is a pecking order for the snack: Cats go first, then dogs and "other random animals" to follow.

"A pastor friend of mine in Everly had a blessing where they brought a cow," she said. "I'm open -- whatever people want to bring."

One pet owner already knows the family cat won't get along with some canine parishioners, so they're bringing a picture of their pet instead.

"We trust the owners to know their animals," the pastor said.

Rohret is the third pastor at Calvary to host the boat-in worship at Wilson Park. The service draws 100-150 people on a typical Sunday, but crowds are larger on holiday weekends. Many bring blankets or folding chairs as they listen to a mix of contemporary and "ole time" praise music. The services and Sunday's special blessing are sponsored by Calvary Untied Methodist Church, but open to people of all denominations.

"It's been a very good ministry," she said. "We've always enjoyed it and love having people come out."

Once Halloween passes, Rohret is also planning an "All Saints" worship service for pet owners who have lost their companion.

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