03 May 2017
Bear the Prayer Dog is proving to be a popular new member of the ministry team at Christ Church in Stamford. Here, Lel Nicholls, the Children & Youth Minister, takes up Bear’s story...
From an idea that arrived back in September 2016, it took six months to establish what we believe is the very first ‘Prayer Dog’ in our diocese.
Whilst walking Bear, our young Airedale Terrier of 14 months, with my friend, the Revd Nikki Bates, and our husbands one beautiful sunny afternoon, an idea was born, and this idea would prove to be of benefit and service to our church community, of support to me in my pastoral ministry and it would benefit Bear!
Nikki and I first invested in prayer, seeking discernment and guidance. We later designed a logo and came up with a name, and we then began to discuss how a Prayer Dog could be of benefit to the people in our parish, while also considering some practicalities.
Once all of the details were confirmed, and with doggy and human clothing created (with grateful thanks to Tim Morris of Stamford Engraving), a date was set for Bear’s commissioning service (5th March 2017), which just happened to coincide with my appointment as Christ Church’s new Child & Youth Minister!
As our ‘Prayer Dog’, Bear accompanies Nikki and I on our prayer walks around our local community, as we seek to pray for all in our community and to cover the parish with a ‘blanket of prayer’. We pray for certain situations and people, along with giving thanks for God’s provision. To date, we have only been out for a short number of weeks, but every Wednesday morning we can all be found stepping out in faith, in every sense!
An added benefit is that we can engage with many people who are out and about, as they are drawn to Bear’s cute looks and character (I am slightly biased!). We have already had some great conversations with people and, upon request, we will actively pray for them in the street – hence our slogan, ‘Paws for Prayer’! We all have different ways of praying, and so if a spoken prayer doesn’t suit, then we offer what we describe as ‘every pat of Bear is a prayer’, which is when just stroking him and connecting silently is all that is needed.
It has been a privilege in the first month of this new ministry to visit Bluecoat Primary School, and to introduce Bear to all the children. We talked about why and how Christians pray, and Bear proved very popular! He was very well behaved, and it is hoped that, in time, Bear will become a Pets as Therapy (PAT) dog, assisting children in their literacy and relationships, but for now he seems content to be bathed in affection and cuddles! Bear and I have also been warmly welcomed into Christ Church Day Centre to meet the members, staff and volunteers; I think that Bear will soon be as well known around the place as MD, our church cat!
As I see it, God doesn’t call the equipped but equips the called, and He certainly did that when Bear came into our lives! Connecting with people via Bear the Prayer Dog is exciting, wonderful, and results in the putting of smiles on faces, reaffirming the message that we are loved and valued by God, wherever and whoever we are!
Lel Nicholls (Child & Youth Minister), Bear and the Revd Nikki Bates prepare to step out in faith.
For more information on Christ Church Stamford, please visit the church website.
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