Thanks so much for sharing this.
It sounds like you
handled an extremely difficult situation with grace.
It also sounds
like you are making good progress in opening the eyes of a very tough crowd.
I do appreciate you being willing to tell your story because I really want
to develop materials to help the church understand the importance of this
issue to who we are as Christians.
In order to do that effectively, of
course, I must first understand where the objections are.
is so obvious to me, it is hard for me to anticipate where the objections
arise, so this is very helpful to me.
As part of a class
assignment, I am developing what I hope will turn into a short adult Sunday
school curriculum about animals and theology.
I hope to screw up my
courage to see if a prayer/study group I belong to at a former church will
let me try it out on them.
It is a group of women who think all this
animal stuff I do is all very well, since it seems to make me happy, but it
really is a little silly, after all.
They are not 'animal people,'
they don't think it concerns them.
I find the idea of raising this
issue with them much more intimidating than raising it with clergy and
bishops and things.
A clergy pal of mine has said that once I
get it done, I can teach it at her church.
This means I really have to
do it, I suppose . . . .
Anyway, thanks for your e-mail.
We can all only keep doing what we can and pray that God will do the rest.
Things went better at our last Vestry meeting.
I tried to analyze what
went wrong the first time. I was taken totally off guard since they knew
when they hired me three years ago that I'm a big time animal welfare
person, a veggie, with ENAW, etc. I think my error was in assuming it would
now be a fairly easy transition because I essentially, without saying it
explicitly, have transitioned them into being animal friendly in all our
practices. We have veggie options at all meals/coffee hours, Lent is totally
vegetarian. I did fight one battle with a man that liked to bring lamb to
Maun day Thursday and got that resolved.
We have a number of pastoral
care opportunities for people with sick animals or when they die, the
blessing of the animals and featuring St. Francis has become much more
central/important. The list goes on, but when I brought it to the Vestry as
a simple "motion to approve us officially becoming an animal friendly
congregation" I got major resistance. I didn't expect it since I told them,
"this won't be doing anything we don't already do now."
A few members
were interested/supportive, most were ambivalent to neutral, but several
were actively hostile/angry/defensive.
I was told, "this DOESN'T
BELONG IN CHURCH!" and one member went on a long tirade about how he doesn't
believe animals have souls or will be in heaven and that he has no moral
qualms killing them and eating them, etc. It was extremely heated. I tried
to explain my position at that point, saying I wasn't asking them to
personally become vegetarians, but it was ugly (and that's very unusual for
our Vestry). We have one member whose family egg farm is suffering
financially and possibly going to close due to the cost to transition with
Prop 2 to cage free eggs, so that's a big issue. We have a number of
farmers, hunters, and cowboys types. Even though I purchased and donated a
humane rat/mouse trap to the church and talked about why we should use it in
the church service, members have refused to use it (we have many critters in
the church) and have continued killing with those snap traps without telling
In the first Vestry meeting after the arguing, someone
finally called for a vote and we had a majority, but it was not a good
feeling with some dissenting angrily.
I left and cried all the way
home, feeling really attacked. I really thought I had waited long enough,
prepared them, and made the transition slow and easy enough for them for
this to be a simple issue and a straightforward vote. That's where I was
At the next meeting (this month) I realized that I had to
come back to them with an apology for not doing more to explain my position
and understanding before putting the motion forward. I handed out a bunch of
materials for them to read including the Animal Resolutions pamphlet and the
new HSUS church guide. While still ambivalent, the most hostile in the group
seemed to calm down some. Although I know it's far from over and some
members have started complaining.
I guess agreeing to do these
things informally feels very different and much more threatening when
agreeing to do them formally. It seems that they feel like they are/were
being judged for eating meat, perhaps because it is coming from me as a
That's the only thing I can surmise.
thanks all for asking. It's far from over I'm sure, but we're another step
closer. If you have any thoughts, would appreciate it! You can email me off
list if you prefer.