Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Blessing Animals and Others

September 24, 2008

Along with many parishes we ask God’s blessings on animals around St. Francis’ day each year. (We are usually a little early in order to avoid conflict with our fall parish weekend at Kanuga.) We do this in the context of a 9 am celebration of the Eucharist and it is a moving and important event for many.

Part of the annual event which is not so fun is the conversation that arises each year in which someone will say something I first heard said in all seriousness at a clergy meeting in 1982: “We bless hunts. We bless ships. Why can’t we bless people who love each other?” The response should be obvious to anyone who gives such statements and question a moment’s thought. First, we don’t actually bless such things. We ask God’s blessing on something particular (‘the safety of all who sail in her”) just as we can ask God’s blessing on anything that is not immoral. What we don’t do is pronounce blessing as a sacramental act (akin to pronouncing absolution) in the life of the Church. I realize that this distinction makes little difference to most people but it is an important one. We pronounce blessing on all people, including those who identify themselves as LGBT or a host of other things at almost every Eucharist. We also pronounce God’s blessing on marriages, currently defined in our constitution as a union of man and woman. The church determined along time ago that there was no moral ambiguity in such a blessing.

At All Saints’ we will ask or invoke God’s blessing on the relationships of gay and lesbian people pending some level of consensus in the wider church about the (moral) status of such relationships. I’m looking forward to and working for that day but the cheap analogy between ‘blessing pets’ and blessing ‘people who love each other’ demeans the seriousness with which we take both possibilities.

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