How one church shows that God loves us, one and all
by Kelly Merritt
Naples Community Church is special for many reasons – but for some families, it means a lot to be able to bring Fido or FiFi along for worship. Honoring these special family members is more than just being able to bring well-behaved dogs to service. Even though it’s never been a written rule, it seems written and understood by people who know God and His word.
“The first work of the first man was to name the animals, thereby entering into a relationship with them as creatures who share in God’s goodness – after all, God made a covenant with Noah that included saving the animals,” says Pastor Kirt Anderson of Naples Community Church.
“Hosea affirms God’s love for the beasts, the birds and the creatures and Paul says that the entire creation awaits God’s work of consummation.”
Anderson also notes that C. S. Lewis believed that animals, dogs in particular, will find a home with their human partners in heaven. Those of us who love our dogs have to believe that too, or we’d never survive their loss when they must leave us here on earth without them.
“And anyone who has taken the time to know animals, loves them, and can’t imagine them as simply one protoplasmic step on evolution’s ladder,” adds Anderson.
“Somehow we know God loves them too.”
It all began when one of the church couples brought “Daisy” with them. Then, Anderson says a couple from Celebration Church which meets at Cambier Park came over because that church had to relocate due to an art fair. They brought “Marley” along too.
The same thing happened as other couples felt at ease bringing their dogs with them.
“It’s been a simple matter of asking forgiveness rather than permission, but no one has ever objected,” says the pastor, who like his parishioners is warm, upbeat and welcoming to all. “They think it’s great and it does reinforce the appreciation for pups who provide such warmth and comfort to so many, young and old.”
The church doesn’t make the service about the pets and the pets are like their owners: reverent and appreciative to be included in the joyous music, prayers and sermon. They especially enjoy the fellowship afterwards with who Pastor Anderson calls some of the most caring people anywhere.
“Parishioners are regularly seen petting and talking to the pets others bring which is all a reflection of the openness and loving manner of these people—there are no grouches here,” he says.
Naples Community Church worship is every Sunday at 10:00 a.m. Parking is available in designated lots adjacent to the church on the north and south side and in the nearby parking garage. For more information on Naples Community Church or its programs, visit www.naplescommunitychurch.org or call 239.213.1325.