By Elaine Van Develde
You could say that the Saturday’s pet-friendly church service at Rumson’s St. George’s-by-the River Episcopal Church was a howling — perhaps hamster-ease squeaking — success.
It wasn’t “ruff” to see that the estimated 35 or so dogs and one hamster (aptly named Hamstee) enjoyed the first of now monthly bring-your-pet worship time.
There was a lot of tail wagging, happy woofing and kisses for the reverends with blessings. And on the way out, the good church-goers got homemade treats.
To ask Rev. Ophelia Laughlin, rector, and Rev. Jeff Roy, assistant rector, is to hear that they feel blessed themselves to welcome the animals to church on a regular basis.
“We’ve held the blessings of the animals and continue to do so regularly, and when they come to church now they can also be blessed, but we think it is just so nice to have the animals here for services,” Rev. Laughlin said after the service. “We keep it short and it’s very casual. Even if you don’t have an animal to bring and enjoy them, we welcome you. Please join us.”
Reverends Laughlin and Roy hung around a bit afterwards, just like with animal-free services, to bond, administer some blessings and make sure the pets got their “thank you for joining us” treats.
There were lots of smiles and a lot of tail wagging and licks — taken as a four-legged show of approval by animal parents. And, yes, the hamster seemed to stand on its hind legs for a high five on the wheel.
“My little girl sat quietly on the bench and took it all in. I enjoyed the reverend’s sermon,” said Elissa DeRogatis Stroby, who brought her dog Scrabble from Long Branch. “One of her stories really hit home. A quote from her story: ‘We are all just visitors here, even our four legged, two legged, or no leg animal friends.’ Something well said that was meant to ease the pain of loss. Since it was all pets and owners, the sermon was brief, the mass was brief. They took into consideration the restlessness of animals. I think I would like to go to a regular mass there sometime soon.”
The next pet-friendly service is April 11, and every second Saturday of each month thereafter at 5 p.m.. All pets are welcome. Dogs must be leashed and all others must be contained.
Take a look at the above slideshow for a glimpse into the event. Oh, and be sure to click on the icon in the lower right corner to enlarge! Enjoy!
Photos and slideshow/Elaine Van Develde