Friday, July 20, 2007

Animal Chaplains

Welcome to Animal Chaplains blog! If you are an Animal Chaplain, Animal Ministry leader, animal lover, or spiritually-minded pet owner, we hope you will blog with us. I am the Chair of the Interfaith Association of Animal Chaplains, which you can find at If you have never heard of Animal Chaplains, or Animal Ministry, here is some background information to get you started.

What is Animal Ministry?

Animal Ministry has been around since the very first time a human being felt connected to animals. In each of the world's great faiths, there are important historical figures who were known for interpreting sacred scriptures to teach people to protect and honor animals. We are taught in every faith that we, as humans, are stewards of the wonders of Creation. It is a serious responsibility, and with it, can come great joy and self-discovery.

Interfaith Association of Animal Chaplains is a specialized ministry of Interfaith, listing dozens of independent Animal Chaplains around the world. Independent Animal Chaplains provide an array of services to the community. We can provide pet loss grief support and perform memorial services, pray for animals who are sick or injured, as well as many other services. We can come to a clinic to comfort the bereaved, hold hands (and hearts) during surgery or euthanasia, or perform a memorial service at the client's home, track or barn, or in a park. Our philosophy is gentle and respectful. Most of us have had pets of our own, and have sincere compassion for the difficult times pet owners sometimes face.

In addition to grief and loss services, independent Animal Chaplains can deliver guest sermons on the bond between animals and humans, and offer spiritual education and guidance regarding our responsibilities as human beings toward the other creatures of the Earth. Some Animal Chaplains visit nursing homes and hospitals with therapeutic animal assistants, while others may lead religious services where well-behaved pets are welcome. Still others run animal shelters, animal rescue organizations, or other non-profit organizations which benefit the animal kingdom. For a sermon explaining the role of the Animal Chaplain, please visit the website.

You can become an Animal Chaplain or Animal Ministry Leader, too.

Within each spiritual community or congregation, leaders can be trained in the field of Animal Ministry to offer Chaplain services and lead animal ministry groups. Interfaith Animal Chaplains now offers a course in beginning Animal Ministry. Upon graduation, if you are already an ordained member of the clergy, you will become an "Animal Chaplain". If you are not, your diploma will say "Animal Ministry Leader". Same class, different Diploma, depending on your role in your spiritual community. For ideas on how you can start an Animal Ministry within your congregation, please click on the "Start an Animal Ministry" link on

How It All Began - The History of Interfaith Animal Chaplains

In 2003, Chaplain Nancy started serving families and individuals in interfaith animal ministry informally through her work as a preschool teacher, religious school teacher, and Director of Religious Education, in a variety of interfaith religious settings. In her work with children and families, she found that a great deal of grief occurred surrounding the loss of a beloved pet, and some people did not have clergy members available to them who were responsive to the depth of their pain. Nancy offered the children she worked with opportunities to bless their pets, talk about their grief when pets died, and discuss whether or not animals go to Heaven. After being called to lead pet memorial services for friends she knew, she decided to search the Internet to see if others were doing similar work. Nancy was quite surprised to find a few other Animal Chaplains in various places. One Animal Chaplain, Rev. David James in New York, had been performing memorial services for animals for 15 years!

Meanwhile, California Rev. Sandraw Shaw, formerly of "Chaplain of the Pets", as well as an unknown number of other clergy members in the United States, were performing services for pet owners in a variety of settings. By 2003, Rev. Shaw had an extensive network of animal ministry contacts and lectured frequently in veterinary professional circles, as well as working full-time in her personal Christian-based animal ministry. Nancy and Sandra became friends in 2004, and Nancy became Sandra's student. Between Sandra's formal training program, and Nancy's interfaith mentoring, members of the clergy and congregation leaders from a variety of faiths have been instructed how to add animal ministry to their repertoire of services offered. Rev. Shaw has since retired, yet her legacy of love remains, as evidenced by the many animal memorial and pet ministry websites praising her efforts and leadership. Although Animal is not technically associated with the Chaplain of the Pets ministry, Rev. Shaw's dream of training new Animal Chaplains will always be known as an inspiration to all members of the clergy who do this work.

Interfaith Animal Chaplain Training

Since Rev. Shaw retired, numerous independent clergy members and other religious community leaders have asked Nancy how to become trained to do Interfaith Animal Chaplain work. Until now, Chaplain Nancy has individually mentored each person who has asked, and has instructed them on how to set up their own independent animal ministries. Due to the overwhelming response her Interfaith Animal Chaplains website has created, she is now offering an Animal Chaplain Training course (ACT) that is easily accessible to the public via the Internet. Books for the course can be easily purchased on-line from, volunteering is done in one's own community, and all other requirements can be fulfilled by correspondence and telephone. If you are interested in becoming an Animal Chaplain, or Animal Ministry Leader, please click here.

Services Commonly Provided by Interfaith Animal Clergy:
Memorial Services for families and friends at your home/barn/track/clinic.
Spiritual/Grief Counseling
Emotional support during Euthanasia or Surgery at a veterinary clinic
Pet Loss Grief Support Groups in pet stores, churches and veterinarian's clinics
Classes on Spirituality and Animals
Speeches, sermons or presentations to professional veterinary and religious organizations, by arrangement.

That is some general information. So, what do you think?