When Shug died in 2008, folks were very generous in sharing some liturgical resources for animal companions’ illness and death, and I found a few others thanks to Google. I’m going to put them here and add a new category in my sidebar.
I hope our Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music will rise to this challenge before our 2012 General Convention. It is time – and well past time – that they provided liturgies so we Episcopalians don’t have to make this up on our own. They can provide some guidance and order into our theology of our relationship with our fellow creatures if they will just tackle this matter. I hope and pray they will.
In the meantime, I’ve been working on this since I got home this evening. It's long – probably too long. But for people seeking a liturgy for their animal companions, I hope it will prove to be a helpful resource.
Once I get this posted on my blog, I’ll check the comments there.
Here are the theological/liturgical resources I’ve located to help me as I contemplate Scotty’s death.
Of course, I think the finest resource is Andrew Linzey’s book, Animal Rites. Some of you have recommended it to me. Trust me! I own a copy, but it’s currently on loan to a friend who lost her dog last month; she’s bringing it back to me tomorrow. Further, I have purchased several more copies, including ones I have given to our (now former) interim rector, our current rector, and a couple of other priests I know. It’s the best! … I hope someday our Episcopal Church will offer a liturgical resource that is as rich and deep as Linzey has shared with the world.
Episcopal Network for Animal Welfare
The Episcopal Network for Animal Welfare is an excellent gateway. It has some of the links that I’m including here, but is more broad. It includes links to Liturgies & Resources for the Loss of Companion Animals, Animal Blessings, Animal Liturgy/Prayer Books, Resolutions & Statements of our Church, Organizations & Ministries by Anglicans, and Sermons. This is a wonderful first stop.
EpiscoVeg has offered funeral and memorial liturgies for birds, dogs, cats, and horses. Access them here. Thank you, Sue!
Rabbi Barry Block
Rabbi Barry H. Block (of Temple Beth-El in San Antonio) produced a brief “Prayer for the Death of a Beloved Pet,” which reads:
O Lord our God, we come before You this day in sadness.The next two liturgies I found are more extensive. I am following the Book of Common Prayer conventions. The “rubrics” (or instructions) are reproduced here in red.
(Pet’s name), who brought us so much joy in life, has now died. (His/Her) happy times in our family’s embrace have come to an end. We miss (pet’s name) already.
Help us, O God, to remember the good times with (pet’s name). Remind us to rejoice in the happy times (he/she) brought to our home. Let us be thankful for the good life we were blessed to give to (him/her).
We are grateful to You, God, for creating (pet’s name), for entrusting (him/her) to our care, and for sustaining (him/her) in our love for a measure of time. We understand that all hat lives must die. We knew that this day would come. And yet, O God, we would have wanted one more day of play, one more evening of love with (pet’s name).
O God, as we have taken care of (pet’s name) in life, we ask that You watch over (him/her) in death. You entrusted (pet’s name) to our care; now, we give (him/her) back to You. May (pet’s name) find a happy new home in Your loving embrace.
As we remember (pet’s name), may we love each other more dearly. May we care for all Your creatures, for every living thing, as we protected the blessed life of (pet’s name). May (his/her) memory bless our lives with love and caring forever. Amen.
I am reproducing these two liturgies in full because they are not longer readily available on the Internet. Everytime I look for them, they seem to be at a different URL. It takes much searching to find them, and I fear they will migrate to new sites yet again. When I went searching for them tonight, I found “dead links” – leading to that dreaded “HTTP 404 – File Not Found.” If either of these authors objects to my posting their liturgies here, I will take it down, but I think they are worth sharing before they get lost or disappear from the Internet. As President Jefferson said, the best preservation strategy is to keep many copies in many different locations. I hope I am working in keeping with his philosophy and that these authors will not object.
The Rev. Frank Logue
The Reverend Frank Logue produced A Liturgy for the Burial of a Pet from King of Peace Episcopal Church (Kingsland, Georgia).
A Liturgy for the Burial of a Pet.
The service which follows is for use with the burial service of a pet. Please adapt the service as needed to fit the needs of the particular service you are conducting. The N. marks the places where you will need to insert either the pet's name or the owner's name as is appropriate.
A Liturgy in Remembrance of N.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, a gentle Father, and the God of all consolation, who comforts us in our sorrows, so that we can offer others, in their sorrows, the consolation that we ourselves received from God.-2 Corinthians 1:3-4
God is with us; God's love unites us, God's purpose steadies us, God's Spirit comforts us. Blessed be God forever.
Merciful and compassionate God, we come to you with N. in grief and ask for her the strength to bear the loss of their companion N.. We bring you our thanks for all you give us through our pets; and we bring you our prayers for peace of heart in the knowledge of your mercy and love, in Christ Jesus. Amen.
I lift up my eyes to the hills:
but where shall I look for help?
My help comes from the Lord:
who made heaven and earth.
The Lord will not let your foot stumble:
the one who guards you will not sleep.
The one who keeps watch over this people:
shall neither doze nor sleep.
The Lord is the one who will guard you:
the Lord at your right hand will be your defense,
so that the sun shall not strike you by day:
nor yet the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve you from all evil:
yes it is the Lord who will keep you safe.
The Lord shall take care of your going out,
and your coming in:
from this time forth and forever.
And if thy heart be straight with God, then ever creature shall be to thee a mirror of life and a book of doctrine, for there is no creature so little or so vile, but that sheweth and representeth the goodness of God. ~Thomas à Kempis
The reason why God's servants love his creatures so deeply is that they realize how
deeply Christ loves them. And this is the very character of love to love what is
loved by those we love. ~Catherine of Siena
All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great
and small. all things wise and wonderful, the lord God made them all.
Each little flower that opens, each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours, He made their tiny wings.
The purple headed mountain, the rivers running by,
the sunset, and the morning that brightens up the sky.
The cold wind in the winter, the pleasant summer sun,
the ripe fruits in the garden, he made them every one.
He gave us eyes to see them, and lips that we might tell
how great is God Almighty, who has made all things well.
Almighty God, your Son taught us that though five sparrows could be bought for two pennies, they are not forgotten before you. We thank you for N., and for the companionship N. offered to N.. And we thank you for all the pets who share our homes and our lives. We ask for comfort for this family in their loss, knowing that you grieve with them for you care for all of your creation as you care for us. May we live more peacefully because of today, and come at last, in the fellowship of all your people, to the haven where we long to be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Lord's Prayer
Officiant May Christ the Good Shepherd enfold us with love. Fill us with peace, and lead us in hope, this day and all our days. Amen.
The Rev. Robert Stiefel
It has taken some sleuthing, but I have finally located again the liturgy crafted by The Reverend Robert E. Stiefel, Ph.D.(Episcopal) of Dover, New Hampshire. God bless him for crafting this liturgy! I am reproducing At the Loss of a Pet or other Animal: A Service of Grieving and Thanksgiving here for the same reasons mentioned above. If I have violated copyright, I will remove it. [Addendum: Ann Fontaine alerts me that the liturgy is also available at the Diocese of New Hampshire site. Thanks, Ann!]
At the Loss of a Pet or other Animal:
A Service of Grieving and Thanksgiving
Concerning the ServiceSo that’s it for now. At last I have done what I intended to do two years ago. Now I’m going to put these on my sidebar … and then I can rest.
All living creatures share the same source of life and are equally subject to death. The very love we have for each other in the risen Christ is extended as a ministry of stewardship and a gift of love to the pets and animals who abide with us as fellow creatures and companions. Therefore, it is appropriate for Christians to come together in worship at the loss, whether by death or disappearance, of a pet or other animal entrusted to their charge and care.
The family, household, or person(s) who have suffered the loss may make use of this service without the participation of ordained clergy, but it is appropriate that a priest be invited to preside or take part in order to give the absolution after the confession, if such is said, and to bless the people at the close.
The service is intended for celebration in a home or other suitable gathering place, including the chancel of a church or a small chapel or in the out of doors at a burial site. It is not intended for inclusion in a celebration of the Holy Eucharist.
If the animal is to be buried at the close of the service, the remains are to be
suitably covered before the service begins.
At The Loss Of A Pet Or Other Animal
The Officiant begins by saying
Blessed be the one, holy, and living God.
People: Glory to God for ever and ever.
Officiant: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Officiant: Let us pray.
Silence may be kept, after which the Officiant says one of the following Collects.
At the Burial of a Household Pet
0 God, you created all that is, and you love all that you have made: we come to you this day in grief and with thanksgiving. We grieve the death of our beloved N., who has been our companion on the way, and we thank you for the gift of (his) her presence among us as an effective sign of the richness of your creation and of the generosity of your love; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
At the Disappearance of a Household Pet
All knowing God, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and all the animals of the earth are yours: be with our beloved N., who has disappeared from our view and from our care. Protect and defend this your creature from all harm in this world, and in the world to come preserve (her) him in the heart of your love; for the sake of your Son our Lord, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
At the Burial of a Farm Animal
Most gracious, good Lord, we are the people of your pasture and the sheep of your hand: We thank you for placing us among the beasts of the field and allowing us to care for them and to receive from them food and clothing to meet our necessities. We grieve this day the death of N., and we return to you a creature of your own making, one who served as an effective sign of the generosity of your love for us; through Jesus Christ our Good Shepherd, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
At the Burial of a Wild Animal
Almighty God, who made the beasts of the wild to move in beauty and show forth the glory of your Name: we grieve the death of this creature, in whose living and dying the power of your Spirit was made manifest. We stand in grief and awe, and we reverence the loss of that which was ours never to claim but only to behold with joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
When appropriate, the following may be added
Most merciful God, comfort NN. in their grief. Surround them with your love, that they may not be overwhelmed by their loss, but have confidence in your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
One or more of the following or other appropriate passages from Holy Scripture may be read. A reading from non-biblical Christian literature may follow the biblical Reading(s).
Genesis 1:1-3; 19-25(26-31) (God creates all living creatures)
Genesis 2:18-20a(20b-25) (Adam names the animals)
Genesis 7:1-5; 8:1-19 (Noah's ark and the great flood)
Genesis 9:1-17 (The Covenant with Noah)
Numbers 22:21-35 (Balaam's ass speaks)
Between the Readings, a Psalm or hymn may be sung or said. Appropriate selections from the Psalter are 23, 42:1-7, 104, 121, 131, 145:16-20, and 148:7-14.
The Prayer of Azariah 52-65 (Let the earth bless the Lord) also found in the Book of Common Prayer, pages 47 or 88, as Canticle 1 or 12 A Song of Creation (Invocation, II, III, and Doxology)
Revelation 4:(1-6a) 6b- 11 (The four living creatures)
Matthew 11:28-30 ("Come to me")
Matthew 18:10-14 (The lost sheep)
Mark 12:28-34 (The First Commandment)
After the Reading(s), the Officiant or other person appointed may give a brief homily. After or in place of the homily, those who are in attendance may be invited to speak words of remembrance or consolation.
The following form of the Prayers of the People may be used, or other appropriate prayers may be said.
In peace, let us pray to God.
O God our Maker, from the beginning you have permitted us, the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, to name our brother and sister creatures of earth, sea, and sky: We commend N. (or this n.) to the arms of your everlasting love. Amen.
OChrist our Savior, in your love you gave yourself to death that the whole world might have life: Console us who grieve, and by the sign of the rainbow help us to trust in your everlasting love. Amen.
O Spirit and Giver of Life, you abandon no creature that the flame of your presence has enlivened: Abide with us in this world and sustain in us the hope that we may yet again rejoice in the companionship of N. (or this n.) in the world to come. Amen.
As our Savior Christ has taught us, we now pray,
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.
The traditional form of the Lord's Prayer may be used instead of the above.
If appropriate, the following form for Confession and Absolution may be added.
Officiant Let us confess our sins against God, our fellow creatures, and one another.
Silence may be kept.
Minister and People
0 God of compassion, have mercy upon us; forgive us for our mistreatment and neglect of the creatures with whom we share this garden earth, for what we have done to harm them, and for what we have left undone to help them; we are truly sorry and fully repent, and we ask you to fill us with your Spirit, that we may care for one another, and for all your creatures, according to your will and in the fullness of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
If a priest is present, the absolution is given as follows
Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins through the grace of Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen.
If no priest is present, the Officiant uses the preceding form and substitutes "us"
for "you" and "our" for "your".
Other prayers may be added in place of or in addition to the Confession and Absolution. Except in the event of a lost animal, the prayers conclude with the committal. In the event that the animal being buried is of the wild, the words "we thank you" through "our care." are usually omitted.
Most merciful God, we return to you N. (this n.), a creature of your own making and your gift into our lives. We praise you for his beauty and strength, for his grace and power; we thank you for his faithful companionship in our joys and sorrows; and we bless you for the time during which you entrusted him into our care. Receive now N. (this n.) back into the arms of your everlasting love, 0 Giver of life, through whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ all that is lost to death is restored to life, and in whose Name we pray. Amen.
Then may be said
Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
The Officiant concludes with one of the following
The grace of our Savior Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the
Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore. Amen. [2 Corinthians 13:14]
May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing through the power of
the Holy Spirit. Amen. [Romans 15:13]
In place of the above, a priest may bless the people.
Note: the prayer of committal may be reserved for or repeated at the burial site, if the service is held elsewhere.