Activity time: 15 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Toy or stuffed animals for all participants
- A copy of chalice-lighting words and words for blessing the animals
- Optional: Table or box, cloth covering, and an LED/battery-operated chalice
Preparation for Activity
- In advance of this session, invite children to bring their own toy animals from home. Be sure to have extras for children who arrive without an animal. Alternatively, provide toy or stuffed animals or every child.
- Choose and print out chalice-lighting words and animal-blessing words. Find some possibilities in an order of service for a Blessing of the Animals on the UUA's online WorshipWeb. Also on WorshipWeb, find an ecology-focused meditation for an intergenerational service, by the Rev. Gary Kowalski, which includes animal names and nature words from A to Z.
- Plan a brief parade of the animals and a Blessing of the Animals ritual that includes time for each child to say something appreciative of the animal they are blessing today. Arrange furniture accordingly.
- Optional: drape a cloth over a table or box and set a LED/battery-operated chalice on it.
- If your congregation conducts a Blessing of the Animals, consider inviting your minister or a lay leader to participate in this activity.
Description of Activity
Children experience a Blessing of the Animals ceremony.
Gather the children in a circle with their toy or stuffed animals.
Tell them, in your own words:
At many Unitarian Universalist congregations like ours, people sometimes come together to bless the animals. This tradition comes from our Catholic friends. A blessing shows how we appreciate the animals in our lives. These might be the pets in our families. It can also be animals we think are beautiful to look at or nice to pet on a farm, or animals that give us wool for clothes, pull plows on farms, and even give us their bodies for our food. We are going to have a Blessing of the Animals here today.
Ask the children to think of at least one thing that is special, valuable, or wonderful about the animal they are holding. Tell them they will each have a chance to say something about the animal. They may pretend the animal they are holding is a real animal they would like to bless, such as a dog or cat that is at home today. Or, they can think of something they appreciate about the kind of animal they are holding; for example: A tiger is beautiful and strong. A kangaroo can jump high. A lamb is cute and grows up to give us wool for clothes. A dog will love you if you are kind to it and take care of it.
Conduct the ritual you have planned. The ritual might include a chalice-lighting, a chance for each child to say how they appreciate an animal, and a collective blessing of all the animals. If the group is not too large, you might like to bless each child's animal individually, and invite the child to say something about the animal at that time. Then lead the children on a parade with their animals unless you have chosen to hold the parade before the ritual.
Including All Participants
It may be helpful to have additional adult volunteers for this activity, especially if the group includes children with high energy or who have trouble focusing.