Be an animal chaplain and spread respect for God's creation and animal rights, no matter what your faith. Many attitudes about animals derive from Judaeo-Christian sources and are deeply human centred. Fundamental beliefs held for centuries are that God made animals for human use and that humans are more important than animals. People manipulate these ideas to justify exploiting animals while denying animals moral and welfare obligations. You can help transform these views and bring comfort to many people who are close to their animals.
Anyone Can be an Animal Chaplain
Animal chaplains do not need to be ordained as clergy or be a member of a religious group. You can be an animal chaplain on your own initiative, anywhere you like and independent. Just set up your own ministry. Animal chaplains are unpaid, often have another job to sustain their worldly needs and offer their chaplaincy part-time.
Alternatively, as an animal chaplain you may affiliate to a religious body and preach in collaboration with ordained clergy. If you are a member of a religious group and wish to preach within its congregation, then a first step is to talk with your minister to explore opportunities. Some religious orders use lay preachers and celebrants, who are non-ordained and are part-time volunteers. It is said that because lay preachers live among the ordinary people that they are able to relate to the lives of common people and bring a freshness of interpretation to the scriptures that ordained clergy cannot do.
Animal Preachers Past & Present
Francis of Assisi (1181 - 1226) is one of the best known religious preachers from history. He lived in present day Italy and was first a soldier, then a traveller and finally a Catholic friar who started his preaching career without being ordained. Frances was made a saint and as the patron saint of animals he demonstrates the positive side of Christianity to the animal world.
However, you do not need to rely on legend for inspiration to preach about animals. Andrew Linzey (b 1952) is a real-life British Anglican priest, theologian, academic and a champion for animal rights within Christianity. Widely considered an authority on Christianity and animals, Linzey has been preaching and writing about Christianity and animal rights since the 1970's and says his vocation is to change Christian attitudes to animals for the better. (For more see the section Andrew Linzey.)
Animal Chaplain Duties
Among your duties as an animal chaplain you would:
- Conduct religious services in which animals are welcome.
- Perform animal blessings and memorial ceremonies.
- Provide pet-loss consolation and counselling.
- Pray for sick or injured animals.
- Support pet owners during animal surgery or euthanasia.
Animal chaplains deliver sermons on the relationship between animals and humans and advance spiritual education and guidance about the responsibilities of humans to animals. From here it is a tiny step to preach animal rights and there is no reason why you should not do so as part of your work as an animal chaplain. Broadly, you will be promoting compassion, respect and rights for God's creatures, and the sharing of the environment with all creation in peace and harmony.
Qualities You Need
- Be a spiritual person with a love for animals, without necessarily being religious.
- Have a sense of calling and a will and commitment to preach.
- Be able to articulate your feelings to other people, project your voice with confidence and express yourself well to deliver your sermons effectively.
- Enjoy serving others, be a good listener, reliable, mature and emotionally stable.
- Develop your faculties as an acute observer of life and discern links between the scriptures and modern everyday living with animals.
- If religious, know your religion. Study and interpret its holy books to apply them when preaching and answering people's questions.
- Be willing to learn the art of preaching. Study the style and delivery of practising preachers and develop your own technique.
- Be willing to spend time publicising your services in your community (people must know you exist).
Some churches offer training and accreditation to lay preachers. The training may take the form of meeting in study groups, associated reading for group discussion, writing essays and periodic homework. There are no officially approved training courses to qualify candidates as animal chaplains, although there are a handful of web sites that offer online learning opportunities. So be an animal rights chaplain now - the field is open and may be calling you.
You may be able to publicise yourself as an animal rights chaplain through your house of worship. Another route is through your own web site or blog. As well as preaching sermons out loud you can write them for display; your web site or blog is an extension of your pulpit, so post your sermons there. Hand out your literature in public places, at religious services and meetings, and teach compassion to animals in school classrooms (see Public & School Speaker).
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