Practical Issues > Things to do > Religion and Animals
Example of AR Actions in Church Setting

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.

Because it 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,' so 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.  

Dear all, 

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 me.  

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 wrong. 

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 priest.

That's the only thing I can surmise. 

Anyway, 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. 


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