By Rev. Dr. Jessica Terrell
In one of my former churches, the children’s choir would sing Bill Staines’ funny folk song, “All God’s Creatures Have a Place in the Choir.” The song details how animals use whatever they are given to praise God and invites the listener to do the same. It’s one of my favorite songs. And while all animals have a place in the choir, little did I realize the kind of ministry they could have if we also let them into the church office. Today, I am going to share with you about the little dog who is in ours.
It had been some years since my beloved Boxers, Bella and Bruno had passed. I admit the hole in my heart had not yet healed. Which is why I was a bit resistant when my parents called one day and shouted into the phone. “Honey, it is time you had a dog again. We found one that needs your love. We’re bringing him home to you next week. It’s a Boston Terrier puppy. He’ll make sure you go home some and you’ll be good for him, too.”
I protested. I did not have the time to train a dog while finishing my doctoral degree and trying to shepherd my congregation through a, particularly trying season. Yet, when my mom texted me his photo, I was smitten and all defenses came down as Amos stepped into my life and into the life of my church.
I knew that going home at regular intervals to let Amos out would be difficult especially considering all we were dealing with at the church. Which is why I was relieved when many church leaders told me to bring Amos to the office. So, I brought Amos with me almost every day never realizing that Amos would have his own ministry at Eatonton First UMC, too.
His ministry here is one of deep love and joy. When people stop by for prayer Amos will sit by them in our prayer circle. One of our preschool classes will check him out for playground time. From my office window, I can see Amos and children chasing each other while peals of laughter resound as loud as the steeple’s carillon. A few older couples in my church who cannot regularly care for a dog anymore due to health concerns will check Amos out for playdates or long walks. When members are having a tough day, they will stop by to spend time with Amos who they claim, “Makes them feel better.” Staff members keep treats in their desks for him as he helps keep their stress levels down. He’s the church’s dog, too. A fact proven by all the Christmas presents he received at the Parsonage Open House Party this year.
Amos has a ministry all his own. He has taught us to slow down and have fun, to have a ministry of presence, and to laugh more. He is quite the pastoral pup who serves many hearts, heals many hurts, and enriches many lives. No one can feel alone or unloved whenever he is present. May the same be said of us as pastors and people of faith.
Like the animals in Bill Staines’ song, may we all serve God and each other with our hearts, lives, hands, and paws.
Rev. Dr. Jessica Terrell is pastor of Eatonton First UMC. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.