On Jan. 26, 2014 the Rev. Al Deal, of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Smithsburg, MD, will be preaching to an unusual breed of church-goer. Rev. Deal is inviting his parishioners to bring their dogs to a pet-friendly service, hoping to get some paws in the pews.
Rev. Deal, an animal lover who comes from a family of dog and cat owners, understands firsthand the loving connection between people and their pets.
Deal said, “For those who love their pets, they’re not just animals. They are part of the family. And if they are part of the family, why not invite them to church?”
The idea for a doggie worship service came to be after Rev. Deal read a story about Rev. Ann Bullis of Wesley United Methodist Church in Sheboygan, Wis. She has been encouraging her congregation to bring their dogs to a 9 a.m. Sunday service.
Deal added, “I thought it would be nice if they could be provided with a warm, welcoming and comforting place to worship with their canine companions. Mt. Zion United Methodist Church is just the place. I refer to Mt. Zion as the little church with the big heart.”
The church’s weekly worship service begins at 8:30 a.m. and is followed by Sunday school. The canine service would be a separate service offered at 11 a.m.
“Depending on how the service goes, I envision having a Sunday school for the folks with their dogs,” said Deal. So far the response from the congregation has been positive.
“I believe the biggest concern is about cleanup duties after the service,” the Rev. said. “I have promised to take care of that. I’m also thinking about providing bags so that owners can clean up after their dogs outside of the church.”
Smithsburg, MD is about 60 miles northwest of Washington, DC. Mt. Zion United Methodist Church is located on Mt. Zion Road outside of Smithsburg, MD, off MD 491.