I was invited to a Blessing of the Animals this past Sunday and I offered to bring a sea creature of some kind, to round out the usual dogs and hamsters. The good folks at La Selva UCC said, “We’ll give you a table for your sea creature, and please say something at prayer time about it and your ministry around ocean stewardship and spirituality, Blue Theology.”
Later I thought - Wait! I’m all about protecting the ocean. I keep saying we should treat animals as subjects, not objects. They are BEINGS I have an I-Thou relationship with, not THINGS I would use just for my needs. How can I take a precious creature out of its home for “show and tell” at church?
I consulted my Monterey Bay Aquarium friends about my dilemma: keep my promise and honor St. Francis or leave well enough alone? They suggested an acceptable compromise – find one hermit crab in an ocean tide pool, put it in a big jar with sea water, take it to church, ask God to bless it, and return it promptly to its home.
So early Sunday morning found me in my church clothes at my favorite secluded rocky beach, poised over crashing waves with my jar – voila, my little hermit. I picked up some lovely feather boa kelp also, as an altar cloth, and to make little Herman feel at home on the table.
At prayer time I said, “I brought for our blessing today a hermit crab, to represent the millions of sea creatures that Francis, and God, include in the family of all creation. I thought it was appropriate to bring a hermit crab, because it reminds us of the great monastic tradition of which Francis is a part. (Get it? Hermits?) And because, as an animal born without a shell, it represents the homeless and vulnerable that Francis so loved. As the hermit crab grows, and seeks to find an empty shell to move into, we remember how we can stand in solidarity with the homeless, and offer what we have (our empty shell?) to those in need.”
Or something like that. I was sort of kidding. And sort of not. It really was holy, this holy hermit (crab.)
(I wrote this post a year ago. I was back at La Selva UCC this past Sunday with another hermit crab, whom I named Hermione. She too was blessed and was a blessing. The day before our Blue Theology Mission Station helped sponsor Not only did we sprinkle sacred water on the 50+ pets with rosemary sprigs, but we also anointed with oil the pet owners, saying, “May God bless the love you share with your animal friend.” Two beautiful outdoor worship services with many blessings.)Pacific Grove’s “First Annual Blessing of the Animals,” an ecumenical service put together by Dan Paul of our Christian Church, with folks from St. Angela’s Catholic Church and St. Mary’s by the Sea Episcopal Church.