Content prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, (C) 2020
As we continue the selfless practice of restricted physical contact, as we adapt and welcome new ways of being communities of faith, our souls need special care. This service is one of a series designed to align us with the Living God during these pandemic-impacted times as social justice reforms arise.
- You may wish to arrange to worship distantly with others at the same time.
- Read through this service beforehand to assemble items needed, including your household Holy Water – or a small bowl of water to bless.
- Make arrangements for your non-human guests to be comfortable (treats and toys). If you are remembering a deceased pet, assemble photo or another item of remembrance.
- A “Christ Candle” can be any sort of candle or object which represents Christ’s presence.
- Choose songs to sing (our suggestions or your favorites). Assemble what you’ll need to sing.
- Ensure an uninterrupted place to worship.
- Decorate your space to welcome God’s presence.
Time for Children of All Ages
Out of the Bag “Blessed by Animals” https://youtu.be/n5j3n66cucw
Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.
Call to Worship
“If we pause to rest and savor, perhaps we will see, hear, or experience how all of life seems held together (apart from our daily efforts) by God – and how each and every part of creation fulfills God’s purpose and blessing. Scripture gives expression to this wholeness by allowing creation itself to sing, dance, and even applaud God’s greatness.” (sh-p)
Let us take a moment to rest and savor the wonder of being fellow worshippers with all created beings. Amen.
Light the Christ Candle
Song for Welcoming the Presence of God
“All Creatures of Our God and King” Written by Francis of Assis, LASST UNS ERFREUEN (Chalice #22)
We Unburden and Gather Hope
Naming Our New Reality
Whether you are alone or with others, let this be a time of private reflection. Take a few moments to reflect on the past week. How are you – heart, mind, body, and soul? What weighs you down? What lifts you up? Tell God. And if you have no words – offer a smile or your tears, a heartache or the bird-like flicker of hope.
Acts of Unburdening and Affirming
It can be helpful to physically acknowledge the burdens and weights we carry. Place pebbles or small items at the base of the Christ Candle as you offering God released concerns. If you do not have words, do not be concerned. The soul knows what to give to God and God knows what to receive. Whatever you give, however you give it, Christ will receive your prayerful offerings.
We shift from speaking to God to sitting with God silently. A helpful way to enter sacred silence is to offer this simple prayer based on Psalm 46:10:
Be still and know that I am God. (pause)
Be still and know that I am. (pause)
Be still and know. (pause)
Be still. (pause)
Try to sit quietly in a state of calm devotion knowing that thoughts and feelings will occur. This is natural. Return focus by chanting a name for God or Christ – such as “Abba, Abba, Abba.” Or by focusing on your breath resting into the ultimate reality of God’s Lovingkindness. Rest in God’s holy presence. When you’re ready to release this practice, take a deep breath, let it out, thank God, and say, “Amen.”
St Francis’s song of praise begins: “Most High, all-powerful, all-good God, all praise is Yours, all glory, honor and blessings. To you alone, Most High, do they belong; no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.”
St Francis found the key to spiritual joy not in human happiness or contentment, but in rightful alignment with God. St Francis could accept, tolerate, and even rise above suffering because he also knew God’s Big Love – he trusted in God’s endless, lavishly poured out forgiveness and mercy.
In these truly troubling times St Francis models for us a way of resting in God’s grace as we endure humanity’s failings, our own included. May we stumble into such grace today. Amen.
Scripture Reading: Psalm 148:7-14 (LTP)
(this translation captures the beauty of this praise song’s lyrical poetry)
Let there be praise:
from the depths of the earth, from the creatures of the deep.
Fire and hail, snow and mist, storms, winds,
mountains, hills, fruit trees and cedars,
wild beasts and tame, snakes and birds,
princes, judges, Rulers, subjects,
men, women, old and young,
praise, praise the Holy Name.
God’s splendor above the earth, above the heavens,
gives strength to the nation, glory to the faithful,
a people close to the Lord.
Israel, let there be praise!
May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon God’s Holy Word. Amen.
Reflection “All Creatures Praise God”
(This reflection includes wisdom from the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis. A related sermon appears on YouTube channel: Kathryn Schreiber.)
In May 2015, Pope Francis issued his second encyclical (doctrinal letter) entitling it: “Laudato Si’” after the opening words of St Francis of Assisi’s song: “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord” (aka “All Creatures of Our Lord and King”).
Pope Francis writes: “In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. ‘Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs’”. (ls, 1)
The pope also speaks of his namesake, St Francis of Assisi: “I do not want to write this Encyclical without turning to that attractive and compelling figure, whose name I took as my guide and inspiration when I was elected Bishop of Rome. I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. He is the patron saint of all who study and work in the area of ecology, and he is also much loved by non-Christians. He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.” (ls, 10)
St Francis deeply understood an equalizing cosmology (worldview) with all creatures as siblings – as we noted two weeks ago in our “Sister Moon” service. That common being-hood extends to our relationship with God, too. We sibling beings all praise the same God, the same Creator. Let that sink in – all of us creatures praise God! Throughout the Hebrew scriptures are passages such as today’s reading in which created beings, including animals, praise God.
While Jesus tells many parables about animals and nature, he doesn’t speak much about the importance of just and loving relationships between humans and other creatures. It may have been that this was assumed (these are important Torah teachings) or that the deadly human power struggles of his day where the most essential moral dangers to address. Today, however, we know our natural world is in crisis along with other epic problems.
Environmental crises were the impetus for Pope Francis to write his 2015 encyclical subtitled, “On Care for Our Common Home.”
Again, from Pope Francis’ introduction: “This sister [mother earth] now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she ‘groans in travail’ (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.
“Nothing in this world is indifferent to us.” (ls, 2)
This week as we Bless the Animals, especially our dear companion animals, let us widen our compassion to consider all our sibling creatures. May we pay attention to how they are praising God, as well as to how they are crying out in pain. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria. (Glory to God Alone)
“His Eye Is on The Sparrow” Written by CD Martin, DH Gabriel/SPARROW (Chalice #82)
If you do not have Holy Water – water that has already been blessed – place your hand near or in the water and pray:
Almighty God, Maker of Heaven and Earth, we call Your Holy Spirit into this water that it may be a living symbol for us of Your eternal love. Amen.
Blessing All Creatures
Blessing the animals we know by name…
(animal’s name) _______, may God bless you, for you are one of the Creator’s Beloved creatures. (make the sign of the cross in water on animals’ forehead or safe place to touch)
Blessing our unnamed animals neighbors, may go outside…
Siblings (may name kinds of animals) _______, may God bless you, for you are each one of the Creator’s Beloved creatures. (sprinkle Holy Water in areas where you often see your animal neighbors)
Blessing the household humans…
(human’s name) ________, may God bless you, too, for you are one of the Creator’s Beloved creatures also. (make the sign of the cross in water on humans’ forehead or safe place to touch)
May God bless all beings who live here. May we be strong in our love for and with each other. In the name of Jesus Christ, in the way of St Francis, we pray. Amen.
Prayers of Petition
This week, let us be grateful for our companion animals, as well as the millions of animals that we will never know personally – the insects that pollinate flowers that produce fruits and reproduce new generations; the tiny creatures living in the waters that keep our oceans and rivers in balance, and also feed the larger creatures, including us. We are dependent upon our sister and brother created ones for our very lives – the animals we consume, or from whom we collect goods; the animals who work for us – as guards, guides, laborers, entertainers, & research subjects. Each has sacrificed something for us. Let us also remember our animal friends who have died.
Great Creator, thank You for this wonderful world filled with so many sibling creatures. Thank You for all the animals, especially those who are our family members. Speak their names:
Loving One, we also grieve for beloved animals who have died. Comfort us in our loss and attend our friends in heaven. Speak their names:
Great Healer, lay Your kind hand upon those animals in need of healing & special care. Speak their names:
Comfort those animals who are suffering from illness, poverty, and mistreatment. Speak to our hearts that we might be more compassionate toward all beings upon this planet. We pray for animals waiting for a home, and those who are sheltering away from dangers. We ask Your blessing upon those human beings who provide kind and safe foster care. We pray for wild, commercial and domesticated animals, and their unique challenges and graces; especially the animals impacted by wildfires and tropical storms, and other damaged natural habitats. And we pray for all the humans who selflessly serve our fellow creatures. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Imagine a place where you feel close to God, maybe a sanctuary where you’ve worshipped. Welcome the memory of your Beloved Community filling your soul with companionship as we pray together the prayer Jesus taught us to pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
We Give Thanks
May our offering today be praise, praise, praise! Join with the animals in your home and neighborhood in praising God! Take turns lifting up your joy! Listen for the praise songs of all our siblings. (also see donation footnote)
We Continue in Hope
Song of Hope
“What A Wonderful World” written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss.
Beloved Ones, God has given us amazing siblings of every species to strengthen and uplift each other. May we join in a fabulous chorus of praise Thanking God for each other. And, may we go forth in peace, seeking each other’s well-being. Amen.
(the service is concluded)
Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995
Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995
HOL: Hymns of Life, bilingual hymnal. ©1986, China Alliance Press.
YouTube Music Videos: search by title AND one of the authors for best results
Worship Resources: All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber unless attributed to another source.
(LTP) Liturgical Training Press, The Psalter ©1995
(sh-p) Sam Hamilton-Poore, Earth Gospel pp 13-14.
(NRSV) New Revised Standard Version ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
(Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, have suspended copyright restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.
Online Publishing Date: October 9, 2020.
Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author.
Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. However, you may express your gratitude financially by supporting disaster relief giving to One Great Hour of Sharing through your church, our church, or directly: http://www.ucc.org/oghs. If you’d like to support the congregation I serve as pastor – Berkeley Chinese Community Church – we’d be most grateful for your support. Please send checks to: BCCC UCC, 2117 Acton Street, Berkeley, CA 94702, Attn: Diane Huie, Treasurer. Thank you!
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