Priest launches national animal-rights network
by Richelle Thompson
When trappers killed Franz, a beloved tiger cat, the Rev. Rebecca Deinsen looked for help.
That's when she discovered that there was little recourse against the trappers, and frankly, that few people were interested in the issue.
"I started contacting animal rights' organizations, and they were the only ones who cared," said Deinsen, associate priest at St. John's, Worthington.
"In the midst of all that, I discovered that there was a need here. There was no spiritual outlet for grieving the loss of pets even though all of creation is a spiritual issue."
Deinsen began researching the issue of animal rights in the church and became involved with the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals, based in England. Through online chats and blogs, she found other people in the United States interested in the issue.
Together, they decided to launch a network of people in the U.S. concerned about animal rights and welfare.
"We prayed about it," Deinsen said. "And we e-mailed it."
Since the launch of The Episcopal Network for Animal Welfare (http://www.franciscan-anglican.com/enaw) in the fall, "it's really
caught on. We thought we'd be lucky to get 12 members, but we're up to more than 50 now," she said.
Three churches in New York have pledged to be "animal friendly," which requires a promise to support and uphold members engaged in animal welfare ministries; hold an "Animal Blessing" service annually; provide pastoral care and prayer for members grieving the loss or illness of a pet; serve vegetarian fare during Lent and provide vegetarian options at community meals; and agree not to hold fundraisers that center upon the killing of animals, such as pig roasts, sport hunting and lobster boils.
For a long time, Deinsen admitted, she believed there were more pressing concerns in the world than animal welfare.
But being committed to animal rights doesn't exclude a commitment to other justice issues.
"It's an additional ministry. The fact that there are so few people who care about animals in creation makes the people who feel called really want to stand up and be a voice," Deinsen said. "Our goal is to raise awareness, to help people make more ethical choices and to provide ministries for people who have lost pets and are grieving. We want to be a place of support for people who feel alienated because they are vegetarian or because they're passionate about animal rights."
--- Richelle Thompson is director of communications for the Diocese of Southern Ohio and editor of the Interchange.
Staten Island Episcopal parish home to newly consecrated pet cemetery
by Daphne Mack
[ENS] The faithful gathered in song and prayer on Earth Day, April 22, on the grounds of the Church of Saint Andrew (http://www.churchofstandrew-si.org/) in Richmondtown, Staten Island to consecrate a special cemetery for pets.
"Pets are an important part of our lives, and this cemetery is one way of honoring what they have meant to us and to our families," said the Rev. Michael Delaney, rector of the Church of Saint Andrew.
Throughout its almost three hundred year history, the Church of Saint Andrew has remained a strong and active faith community dedicated to prayer, fellowship and community outreach.
"The Cemetery for All God's Creatures" is open to all faiths, said Delaney. It serves as a reminder that we are "stewards of all God's creation."
Area politicians, veterinarians and parishioners were present as Bishop Vicar E. Don Taylor of the Diocese of New York opened the gate of the 850-plot cemetery.
"Let it be said that on this day, April 22, 2005 in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ, that the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of New York through the mission and ministry of the Church of Saint Andrew in Richmondtown, Staten Island, is a church where all of God's creatures are welcomed and celebrated," said Taylor.
During the service the following pets were interred:
*Gizmo, one of St. Andrew's own church "mouser” cats.
*Merlin, Gizmo's litter mate.
*Fluffy and Rusty, dogs owned by a parishioner.
*Truth, the dog owned by the late Bishop Walter Dennis of the Episcopal Diocese of New York.
Lynn and John Fodor, who were married at the Church and had their cats Tai and Simon interred, said, "It's a beautiful resting place for the animals where it's safe and very comforting."
Karen Kelly, administrative assistant at the Church said, "Each plot cost $500 which includes the headstone and can hold the cremains of four pets."
She said there is also an additional $225 fee and that "so far about 40 plots have been purchased."
Prayers and liturgy for the service were adapted from We Thank You, God for These: Blessings and Prayers for Family Pets (http://www.paulistpress.com/4125-6.html) by Anthony F. Chiffolo and the Rev. Rayner W. Hesse, Jr., rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in New Rochelle. Hesse said, "This is a very important ministry."
---Daphne Mack is staff writer for Episcopal News Service.