United Methodist children's minister, the Rev. Tanya Eustace, feels pets can be part of a richer spiritual life. "When we bless animals in the church, what we are saying is, 'You are a gift from God.' And we are remembering our covenant with God and with one another and with the rest of creation." Eustace credits her own therapy-dog-in-training for helping her spread that message.
(Tanya to Bela): Bela, watch me!
The Rev. Tanya Eustace, Discipleship Ministries: My dog Bela is a Portuguese Water Dog, and her full name is Bela Esperanza, which means “Beautiful Hope” in Portuguese.
My name is Tanya Eustace. In my early childhood, I really learned that pets create this bond with humans and that they show us and teach us to care for each other.
God can speak to us through animals by showing us that unconditional love, that grace, that joy, and saying, “Here is a space where you can be loved and safe.”
Bela and I have had an amazing 2 years together so far. Having Bela as part of my ministry has really taught me and shown me what it means to live the faith.
(Tanya to children): She loves making new friends.
I think it’s really important for United Methodist church congregations to recognize the role that animals play in some people’s lives.
We, as United Methodists, say that we don’t believe that animals have souls. What we’re really saying is animals do not or are not in the need of God’s redemption and forgiveness, like humans are. Instead, what we affirm when we bless animals in the church is that they are part of God’s good creation.
Paying attention to animals gives us a reason to stop and to say, “Thank you, God, for all that you’ve given us.”
We realize we all have gifts, and I’m learning that Bela’s gift is joy. For others, their gift might be play or their gift might be calm. But it’s when we bring all those gifts together of all of God’s creation that we experience God in God’s fullness.
(Tanya exiting room) Say bye, Bela!
This video was produced by United Methodist Communications in Nashville, TN.