First Congregational Church of Geneseo service 'goes to the dogs'

Claudia Loucks
The Rev. Stuart Schoup of First Congregational Church in Geneseo is shown at the recent “Blessing of Dogs” service he led in Geneseo City Park. Also in the photo are Marsha Welfer and her dog “Lucy,” with children who were at the service.

The interim pastor at First Congregational Church United Church of Christ in Geneseo led a “Blessing of Dogs” service recently in Geneseo City Park where congregations of both First Congregational and First Presbyterian churches gathered to worship.

Not long after he was called to serve the Geneseo church in December of last year, Pastor Schoup noticed the Geneseo City Park, directly to the south of the church….”Then it was not so green,” he said, but added that despite the cold temperatures, he saw lots of people walking their dogs. In addition, he lives in a neighborhood where most of his neighbors have dogs.

He commented that he noticed how the dogs were “cared for, loved and beautiful. Geneseo is a town that loves its dogs.”

Almost immediately an idea involving the blessing for dogs was born.

In previous years of his ministry, Pastor Schoup has led services that involved “Blessing of Dogs,” and he added that he also has been a part of blessings that were inclusive of all animals…”Each has been unique,:” he said. “Each has been full of positive energy.”

It is important to understand that Pastor Stuart Schoup has a love of animals, “especially cats,” he said.

He shared that when departing from one congregation, the children made a point of giving him a parting gift of a scarf, the scarf that many Christian ministers wear in worship…”One side has the handprints of those children,” he said. “The other side is full of cats. I love it, and of course I wore in our recent ‘Blessing of Dogs’ service.”

The “blessing” was intentionally planned in two parts with the first portion titled, “Going to the Dawgs,” which focused on an outdoor worship service to which those in attendance were invited to bring dogs.

Geneseo Police Officer Jamison Weisser and his K-9 Officer Kauzi were special guests at the service.

The service was framed with hymns that were pro-animal.

“While the Bible references dogs on multiple occasions, their reference is usually negative,” Pastor Stuart said. “There is only one positive passage, dogs licking the wounds of Lazarus, Luke 16:21…This is surprising as there are many references to the care of sheep, and dogs are natural partners of shepherds.”

Verses from Genesis 2 also were used in the message where creatures were brought to Adam for naming and to be a partner.