October 4th is the feast day of St. Francis, it's also the birthday of Walter Rauschenbusch. Most churches observe the feast day of St. Francis with a Blessing of the Animals on the Sunday before the feast day. Churches enjoy having sanctuaries full of pets on these Sundays.
I too enjoy churches full of humans and non-humans. But this year I tried an experiment: holding the blessing outside of church on the sidewalk; and instead of doing it during a worship hour, offer it at an hour when pets are out and about, like 4-6pm when they are out for their evening walk...
At 4:01 a neighbor brought over their cat (in a cardboard box). I asked them if they knew about the Wedge's cat tour, they did not. And how many hours a day they spend watching cat videos on twitter. Don't worry, we all do it.
From there it was a steady stream of dogs and cats and bikes and a scooter. I figure St. Francis would approve of bike and scooter blessings too.
True, I did not bless as many animals as I would have if this had taken place during a Sunday morning worship service. However, because we did it outside, on the sidewalk, on a Tuesday during the late afternoon, I was able to have several one-on-one in-depth conversations with neighbors (many I had never met, after being the pastor for 10 years - church doors are hard to open) about life, about their pets, about their pets' healing presence, how much joy they bring to life; we also talked about how wonderful it is to bike in the Twin Cities, the promise of bike buses (see below for more info), and how it is nearly impossible to find someone riding a bike without a smile on their face.
But what about the people who do not live in the neighborhood, go to Judson, and want their pets blessed too? I did not think about this until someone brought this point up to me. It's a great point. 2023 will be a combo event. Sunday morning pet blessing during worship AND a sidewalk blessing in the evening (probably on a Sunday too).
What is a bikebus? Check this out.
And if you are searching a good book on St. Francis, please check out Jon Sweeney's fabulous book: Feed the Wolf