If nothing else, these are very interesting days in the Church. Here is one of those stories of interest.
One of our school staff asked me yesterday if we could have the comfort dogs come to a chapel service. What makes this an interesting story is that long time and regular readers will remember my critiques on this website of the infamous “Comfort Dogs” of Lutheran Church Charities. I will share with you my response to this staff member but first here is some background to the story.
I first called attention to the comfort dog issue in a post nearly two years ago titled “Dog Ministry, You Can’t Make this Stuff Up.” The Comfort Dog phenomenon took an even more drastic turn when we learned that they were installed as staff members of a local church and even installed at the altar! I recorded that story this last January.
Is this the end of Biblical piety and spirituality as we have known it for the last 2,000 years (minus that little blip during the generation of St. Francis of Assissi – the 13th century patron saint of animals)? Not really. I don’t want to make too much of this. One is tempted to take the “Valley Girl” approach, shrug one’s shoulders and just mutter “whatever.” But there is an alarm to be sounded here. When we call dogs “ministers” and dedicate them as staff members of parishes, it is another example of how we are caving into the informality of this narcissistic-Romantic age where relationships and relevance are eclipsing reverence and revealed truths.
Here is how I responded to the staff member:
I would rather have them come for an assembly than for chapel.
As you may know, I am a big animal fan but the group that runs this (I think it is Lutheran Church Charities) uses really inappropriate language in describing the dogs. For instance, they talk about the “ministry” that the dogs do. They also literally had them come up to the altar at a local LCMS church and had them “commissioned.”
These are nice sentiments but our theology is not built around sentiment but around revealed truths and applying this sort of language and ritual to dogs is a disservice to the offices that you and I and the other pastors and teachers in the church hold. It is also a sad commentary on how the church is slipping into a watered down piety and spirituality these days. Dogs are good. Calling dogs “ministers” is not helpful. Using dogs to bring comfort to people is a good thing (as long as they don’t have fleas) but commissioning them at the altar is just downright silliness and detracts from the serious and reverent piety called for in God’s word.
And here you thought you were just asking an innocent question. 🙂
So, I do not want to encourage this inappropriate use of churchly language and ritual by having them come to chapel but I do think the dogs are cool and serve a useful purpose. An assembly might be a good place to have them exposed to the boys and girls.
So, will the Comfort Dogs come home to roost at Bethany? We will see. They do have a role to fill but certainly not an office in the church. I will keep you posted.