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June 9, 2015

Dog-Friendly Churches Give Attendees Examples of God's Unconditional Love

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I hate to admit this, but attending a church service makes me feel anxious. Coming from a cult-like situation has significantly impaired my ability to enjoy any religious gathering. 

So when I heard about a church that is encouraging attendees to come to services with their dogs, I thought to myself, "How great and soothing would it be if I could have my furry best buddy to help me deal with my situational anxiety?"

Not only do I have anxiety in a church setting, I'm also quite shy. I believe having my dog with me to act as a social lubricant might help me interact with other attendees.

The answer to hurting souls?

Unleashed Community Church in Eugene, Oregon was started by a couple who felt God's leading to use people's relationships with their pets to demonstrate His unconditional love for mankind.

Certainly, for me, my pets' devotion and love has helped me cope with a world of troubles and adjustments, and I like to think they are a little gift from God to remind me of His true character. This has been helpful for me as I try and sort out what is real and what was brainwashing. 

With this in mind, I'm intrigued about the Unleashed Community Church. Ruth Rini and her husband, Ron, who started the church that began last September, explain on the church's purpose on the church's Facebook page:

"Unleashed Community Church is the reality of a vision given to my husband Ron and I over seven years ago when we recognized the deep attachment people have to their dogs and other pets in their lives. We realized there was no church community for those who needed pastoral care and a community of support and friendship during all the various circumstances people experience with their beloved pets, who are members of their family. We also realized that dogs and other pets are a perfect example of God's unconditional love for us, and the relationship between humans and animals could be used to demonstrate how much God cares for us and for all of creation."

After the Rini's came to this realization, Ruth decided to go back to college and eventually completed her Masters of Divinity from George Fox Evangelical Seminary in Portland. She graduated in December of 2014 and was "eager to start the church God has placed in our hearts."

"We want to create a church community in which those who love pets as members of the family can express their love for them, find a gospel message that helps others understand God's love in Christ through the human-animal bond, and where they can receive prayer, advice and practical help for any situation they are facing with the pets in their lives."

The only requirements for dogs who attend church with their families is that they be friendly, well-mannered and be current on their vaccinations and flea treatments. The dog-friendly worship service often has illustrations and sermons that relate to people who enjoy the pets in their lives. 

Additionally, the church will host Blessing of the Animals Events in which animals of all kinds can accompany their families. 

The Facebook page goes on to state:

"We don't know where you are in your spiritual journey, perhaps you are brand new to exploring spiritual issues or you are comfortable in the faith you've acquired at this point. No matter where you are in your journey, we welcome you wholeheartedly and with the unconditional love of God as you join us in our dog-friendly services. We are followers of Jesus and committed to proclaiming the story of our faith in Him and our personal relationship with Him, but we welcome you whether or not your story matches ours. 

"We want to provide a community where no one walks alone through both the joy and grief of owning a pet; we want to help you learn more about God through your relationship with your pets. We are eager to hear your story and to work together in ministry to make our community a better place for all animals and for the people who love them.

Church has gone to the dogs, and it may not be a bad thing.

Part of the inspiration for Unleashed Community Church is Ron and Ruth's love for dogs. In fact, the Rinis founded Double "R" Country Inn Kennels in Springfield, Oregon and have been working with dogs since the 1990s.

For those of use who wonder what a dog-friendly service might look like, according to the Christian Post, a recent service had 20 attendees along with nine dogs. The service lasted about an hour and they were shown Christian music videos followed by a short message. The sermon included illustrations about dogs and teachings from the Bible.

In this particular service, the message centered around veterans and dogs that serve in the military together as well as dogs that help soldiers struggling with PTSD as well as physical ailments.

More dog-friendly church gatherings

Although the Unleashed Community Church is the first dog-friendly congregation I'm familiar, apparently theirs isn't the first. Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Smithsburg, Md offers monthly pet-friendly services, and  First Christian Church in Brunswick, OH is also dog-friendly. Also part of the trend is Wesley United Methodist Church in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Let us know if you know of any dog-friendly churches in your area!

What do you think about a dog-friendly church service? Would you be more likely to attend or less likely?

"I think God will have prepared everything for our perfect happiness. If it takes my dog being there [in Heaven], I believe he'll be there." - Rev. Billy Graham

Laura Collier on June 10 at 12:51 PM said:

I think it's a great idea. I would defiantly go If they had a dog friendly church in NJ.
Margaret on June 10 at 4:28 PM said:

I wish they had one in my area.
Ketren Henley on October 15 at 8:45 AM said:

This is an amazing show of love for all creatures of God!! I'm coming today??
Jeffrey Gladu on September 4 at 2:32 PM said:

MCC ? United Church of Christ in the Valley is another Dog-Friendly Church. It is in North Hollywood, CA, USA. We average 3-4 four-legged congregants each week.
Rebecca on September 16 at 2:51 PM said:

I am an activist for all animals and have several wonderful dogs that being said unless a dog is a true service dog I believe it would be a distraction and take the focus off the the pastors message and cause people to be thinking more about the sweet dog and miss the true message. My thought and I stand firm in it and probably will not return to this site to read others.
Marilyn Templeton on May 5 at 7:06 PM said:

Please let me find one in the Plainfield, IN area!!
Micheal A Joiner on September 15 at 9:55 AM said:

I believe that dogs can help people with disability's. And I myself use a service dog who was also my K9 partner in the army. Now I also believe as does the pastor at the church I attend that if a dog helps anyone cope with problems then they should be allowed to attend church services as long as they are well behaved so long as they follow some simple rules as he says " my only rules are no peeing no pooping no biting ". Now I honestly had to laugh when he said that but he mad a great point. Now I have tried to attend other church's where I was told absolutely under no circumstances could my service dog attend with me. Now they are entitled to their opinion they have but a church that won't allow service dogs to me isn't a real church at all
Joy Hafford on October 20 at 10:04 AM said:

I looked online to see if there were any "dog friendly" churches in my area or if they even existed. I came upon this page and love what you are doing. I look forward to church on Sunday. I have been a caregiver for my disabled veteran husband and we have always had dogs for 44 years together. On August 6 (2019) my husband, Richard (age 70), passed away and on August 7 our black lab, Sherlock, also died.The two were inseparable in both life and death,.even suffering from cancer together. I've been trying to cope after the dramatic, life-altering loss of my beloved spouse and dog simultaneously. I have love and support but it cannot fill the place in my heart that my husband occupied and the house is lonely. .2 weeks ago I adopted a little dog from the local Humane Society. Little Jojo is 10 years old and blind in one eye and early stage renal disease so no one wanted him. We were made for each other. I knew I could give him the love and care he needs to live out his years as a happy, wanted dog, as he could help fill a void in my life. He became immediately attached to me, so much so that he will not let me out of his sight and follows me all around the house. If I leave he cries and is very traumatized, fearing that I won't come back. Being small I can take him more places with me that I could our large dogs, however, I can't take him to church. He is not reassured enough yet for me to leave him for that long, even with other family members who love him too. I am missing church today because of my dog. I think God understands. If only there was a church I could take this perfect well behaved adorable new family member with me. God bless you. Sincerely, Joy Hafford (and Jojo), Lodi, California
Ben from Chicago on March 6 at 8:43 AM said:

I was curious if anyone allowed dogs at their church. I had suggested a dog service several years ago to our church and host it outside. Then people could have their furry friend prayed for. The board and our pastor didn't like the suggestion and turned it down. I'm glad to see some churches took the lead on this issue. Thank you for listening to the Holy Spirit.

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