If God created everything and everyone under the blue sky, wouldn’t it be only fair that the doors to monastery and mosque, temple and church were welcome to one and all?
Yet we see that is not the case – barriers exist between faiths and even within them. Humans have constructed rules, rituals, and buildings that exclude as much as they endeavour to include. Meanwhile animals of all kinds co-exist without these structures – a horse and a hawk, a turtle and a tiger live together under the same boundless heavens. They know no churches or scriptures to divide them, no notions of religious superiority or structures of spiritual bureaucracy. Their lives are simple expressions of existence within a single, divine creation.
Perhaps we humans could learn from these humble examples; the cow and crow have no need to justify which better knows the mind of God. By setting up religious divisions, we only divide what was meant to be shared equally under the same sun and clouds. If every living being is part of creation, should we not tear down the walls between beliefs as eagerly as we erect them?
One of this dog’s favourite albums is ‘Temple of the Dog’. It brought together Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell and Pearl Jam members to create a legendary, one-off album in tribute to late Mother Love Bone vocalist Andrew Wood.
Many houses of worship are opening their doors and hearts to welcome an unlikely guest – the dog. At the Episcopal Church of St. John the Baptist in Lodi, New Jersey, Father Tom Murphy was inspired to start a monthly service blessing pets when he saw people grieving deeply over their dogs and cats. Now “God’s Creatures” services draw over 100 people, many bringing their leashed pooches to receive a special prayer.
Some Buddhist temples like the Zen Center of Los Angeles also allow people to bring quiet, well-behaved pets to meditation sessions and services. Their pastoral landscapes and peaceful ambience seems to appeal to canines. And the Anglican St. Mary’s Church in England holds an annual Pet Service where dogs, goats and even a donkey or two might participate.
As recognition grows of animals’ spiritual presence and connection with humans, more inclusive places of worship are emerging. From wee roadside chapels to grand cathedrals, dogs are finding their rightful place beside people in the pews. Their wet noses, wagging tails and simple purity of heart belong as much in sacred spaces as our own.
Have you come across places of worship that welcome dogs? Please share in the comments below.