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December 16, 2011

Rejoice! A Year of Faith and Animals

Look back at how faith communities embraced the cause of animal protection in 2011

  • Happy New Year from the Faith Outreach team (from left): Victoria Strang, Christine Gutleben, Karen Allanach and Lady. The HSUS

by Christine Gutleben

Faith communities embraced the cause of animal protection in 2011, welcoming The Humane Society of the United States into their churches and gatherings and widening their ministry efforts to include animals.

Connecting with the community

One of our most exciting opportunities was an invitation to present at the annual Q (“questions”) conference, where some of the most influential evangelical Christians meet to discuss ideas and hear presentations on critical issues of the day. This event marked an important moment for the animal protection movement as hundreds of pastors, authors, heads of faith-based organizations and more took a serious look at society’s industrial and commercial use of animals. You can watch our presentation here. To mark the occasion, our magazine, All Animals, published a story about the experience and Q posted two thoughtful pieces on the church and animal welfare on their website.   

The HSUS also presented at Adas Isreal, the largest Conservative synagogue in the Washington, D.C. metro area, as well as the Archdiocese of Chicago and the American Academy of Religion, to name a few. Best-selling author, Marianne Williamson, also taught a workshop with us at The HSUS’ annual conference, Taking Action for Animals.

In other exciting news, we hired Victoria Strang, as our Faith Outreach Coordinator. In August, she wrote this reflection on Ramadan. Victoria has been busy connecting with members of faith communities across the United States with our Animal Protection Ministries program to help them plant seeds and grow programs within their communities. Victoria studied religion at Skidmore College in New York as well as Gender in the Middle East and Islamic Law at the School for Oriental and African Studies in London.

Animal ministries abound

We are pleased to report that animal ministries abound nationwide. Hundreds of churches host year-round ministries to help animals. From collecting food for local shelters to encouraging vegetarian options at community events, churches are finding creative and inclusive ways to care for God’s creatures. Notably, in April, Bishop Claude Porter and Reverend Robin Hood welcomed over 100people and their pets to Proviso Baptist Church in Maywood, Ill. Several prominent community members were present, including the mayor of Maywood and 30 other pastors from nearby churches. Don’t miss Bishop Porter’s rousing sermon on animals.

Another illustration of how widespread these ministries have become, is described in two major stories published this year: “Evangelicals Rediscover Their Legacy of Animal Protection,” PRISM Magazine, July, 2011 and, “Churches Take Steps to Show Their Love for Animals,” The New York Times, November, 2011.

Read, sing, watch

Once again, to commemorate the feast day of St. Francis on October 4, we distributed hundreds of kits for churches through our St. Francis Day in a Box! program. This year, we were delighted to collaborate with Franciscan Media, Walden Media, Baylor University Press and others to offer several newly released films and books. Our Associate Director, Karen Allanach, worked with a variety of organizations and companies interested in sharing their remarkable resources on animals and religion.

Also in celebration of St. Francis Day, renowned lyricist, Carolyn Gilette, wrote and dedicated a hymn to The HSUS: “O God Your Creatures Fill the Earth.”  In our excitement and appreciation, we designed a video contest for churches to record their version of the hymn. You can read about the winner and watch their video here.

In its third year, The HSUS film, Eating Mercifully, continues to make an incredible impact receiving over 2,500 individual online orders in 2011. Since 2008, we have distributed over 25,000 copies of the film. If you have yet to see it, you can watch the trailer and order it here.

Religious leaders' summit: wishes for animals

In November, we hosted 40 guests at our second annual religious leaders' summit meeting designed to provide an opportunity for dialogue between faith leaders and HSUS executives and staff. We heard presentations from a number of notable scholars, authors and pastors. Among them, Dr. Karen Prior, Associate Professor and English and Modern Languages Chair at Liberty University, spoke about how the story of Charlotte’s Web helped shape her understanding and awareness of animals. She recently shared her holiday wish:

On our way home from church each Sunday, we pass a house where a Dalmatian has been staked out in the backyard for years. The doghouse sits in the center of a large dirt patch, the radius of which is the length of the dog’s chain. I have never seen a human being near the dog although the house is nearby. My wish for 2012 is for all the chained and kenneled dogs to be welcomed into their families’ homes.

And, Randy Craighead, Executive Pastor at Church of the King in Mandeville, LA who spoke during the meeting also shared his wish for 2012: 

My thoughts and prayers during this holiday season are for all the displaced and forgotten dogs and cats in shelters that so desperately need a loving family home, will find one. Psalms 68:6 describes the benevolent heart of God by saying, He gives the lonely a home. Our wonderful friends need a home this season. May God bless them.

We are committed to working with Dr. Prior, Pastor Randy and as many other religious leaders and individuals as possible, to help realize a more humane world for animals. That is why we are here. Please join us on Facebook, or sign up for our monthly newsletter   and please let us know if you’re interested in starting an animal ministry at your church. Thank you! 

Wishing you many blessings in 2012! 

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