There he was, sitting dutifully in the aisle beside the seat of his beloved boy, occasionally looking lovingly at him, but mostly dozing.

In my previous entry, I had a good chuckle as I reminisced about the nice packet of letters written by a 3rd grade Sunday school, and one in particular in which the boy innocently inquired whether owners brought their dogs to church. I could just imagine the previous conversation which had taken place between this youth and his parents. But here I was in church in Kenya, many years later, observing this loyal companion of another young boy (and his siblings) looking adoringly (and perhaps protectively?) at his friends. This dog rarely ever missed a service, only absent when for some reason the children did not come. The parents of the children never came, but the dog wouldn’t think of missing, as wouldn’t the children.

Thinking of this loyalty, got me to thinking about commitment, or rather the lack of it in relationships today. Are we loyal to our friends, or do we allow the pettiest of offences or mistakes break a good friendship? Do we take time to be with our friends or even family – in person – giving them our attention, or do we content ourselves with relating virtually? How about our spouses, for those of us who are married? Are we committed to stay with them through thick or thin? Do we loyally defend them (perhaps advising them gently and privately when they are in the wrong)? Do we stay in touch with siblings even when geographically apart, or visit our aging parents when they get lonely? Essentially, are we loyal? A dog cannot think through the ramifications of loyalty or the importance of it in relationships, but we have been blessed with this ability, as human beings. Surely, we can do better than that dog.

But the dog wasn’t the only animal I’ve met in church. Once, while on staff at another church, and in a staff meeting, I glanced up at some noise I heard by the door. In marched about 4 chickens, strutting, scratching, and occasionally pecking at something on the floor. They filed in, clucking as they approached, as if in a meeting of their own, oblivious to the humans, staring at them in amusement. Eventually, the pastor trying to lead our own meeting got fed up with the noise and distraction and asked one of the interns to go chase them away. Naturally, this set up quite a flutter and upset the hens’ own meeting, as they ran out squawking and flapping in a panic, initially scattering around the room, but eventually all ushered out and the door closed.

My favorite though, has to be the goat who came wandering into the service one Sunday. It was during the singing of choruses and hymns, some of which the goat must have known, because he was bleating away heartily! He just walked right in the back door and proceeded to make his way to the front towards the worship team (with whom I was playing my instrument). He stood there, looking at us and crying out, walking from one of us to the other, perhaps just asking each of us how to get home. It was quite funny and most of us wound up laughing when we were supposed to be singing. He quieted down (perhaps as curious about us as we were about him) and watched the proceedings. I was wondering why no one was doing anything about him. Finally, when he began interrupting announcements and prayer time with his own vocalizing again, the caretaker came up and escorted him by the rope tied around his neck, outside and tied him to a tree a bit of distance away from the tent sanctuary, where we could hear him occasionally bleating and see him enjoying an early lunch. We never saw the goat again. Presumably, he found his way home, with or without the caretaker’s help.

My answer to that Sunday school boy’s letter now would be…”Yes, sometimes people do bring their dogs to church…and maybe their chickens, and even possibly a goat”, though I get the feeling those last two came on their own. Never a dull moment, as they say!

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