BY BRYNA ZUMER, email@example.com
6:20 AM EDT, September 27, 2013
"All God's critters got a place in the choir," according to a song by Bill Staines, as sung by the congregation of Emmorton's historic Mt. Carmel Chapel on Sunday.
Dogs, cats, rabbits, geckos and hermit crabs all lined up there, together with about 60 to 70 humans, for the church's third annual Blessing of the Animals.
The animal-centered service was preceded by an animal fair with goats, alpacas and local rescue organizations.
The church hopes to start a pet ministry and will soon kick off an animal website where people can share pet-sitting or similar services.
"Animals are God's creatures. There are so many people who are helping animals and we have a lot of animals down here," lay minister Denise McGhee said, explaining the interest in the animal ministry.
"We are just seeing where this is going. There's so many possibilities for this to grow," McGhee said.
The small, stone chapel is part of the Bel Air United Methodist Church and dates to 1865.
Its pastor, the Rev. Carol Pazdersky, has four dogs and noted many of the congregants have pets. One man, she said, is a widower and brings his dog to church.
"That's his only family. We are not going to say no, you can't bring the dog," Pazdersky said.
One of Pazdersky's dogs "led" the service with her, as he did last year.
She explained the congregation wanted to do an outreach and the idea of caring for animals is in the church's history as John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church, was a vegetarian and animal lover.
"Bless the pets who keep us from loneliness," the congregation read. "Bless the service animals who give independence to those with challenges. Bless the working animals who give their strength each day to enhance our lives."
Pet owners lined up inside the chapel for an individual blessing from Pazdersky, as well as a certificate that they had been blessed.
Pazdersky also encouraged the animals to howl along to a chorus that went: "All God's critters got a place in the choir / Some sing low and some sing higher / Some sing out loud on the telephone wire / And some just clap their hands or paws or anything they got."
From the look of the many different dogs and other animals in the audience, both big and small, they had clearly found their place.