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Compassion Comes Full Circle

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Compassion Comes Full Circle By Kris Lecakes HaleyI have always believed that animals are masterful teachers, but little did I know that it would be animals who would create a divine detour in my life. It happened when I found a brochure in the back of the church hall in which our local animal rights group was meeting that alluded to “the interconnectedness of all life,” and it changed the way I thought about spirituality forever.

That was 20 years ago, and since that day, my commitment to the spiritual nature of animals has been unyielding. While many people understand that kindness and compassion for animals is essential, I felt I was being guided to an even higher vision and deeper understanding. Regardless of one’s faith tradition, kindness and compassion for animals—all animals—must be viewed as a part of any core spiritual values.

The strength of that conviction subsequently guided me through many rewarding experiences. I introduced Humane Education principles into the youth ministry at my church, which also established an Animal Kinship Ministry—an invaluable congregant and community resource. We got approval to place a PETA “Vegetarian Starter Kit kiosk on church grounds and offered vegan food samples on Sundays.

My spiritual connection with animals led me to attend theology school to earn a more formal credentialing. My hope was to help create an entirely new, blended paradigm for animals and the world of faith. While I’d previously found faith leaders generally amenable to suggestions like hosting animal blessings and adoption events, I sometimes felt that a true understanding of the plight of all the world’s animals was absent in their reality. I still saw meat-based meals at church celebrations—and fur coats still made their way into the sanctuary. I envisioned a deeper understanding of the spirituality of animals, one woven into the very fabric of each faith leader—not a patch to be sewn on afterward.

Since that first evening in the church hall, animals had led me purposefully, and I had no reason to doubt them now. So when I approached the dean of my school with the suggestion of introducing an Animal Chaplain ordination program, it was no surprise when he expressed his delight! And when I returned a few months later to ask about the addition of a department of Humane Religious Studies, offering Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degree programs, he was genuinely thrilled!

Animals will now have a new and enlightened generation of faith leaders who step into their roles with a full and rich understanding of the divinity that resides within each and every animal with whom we share the planet. They will also have a comprehensive understanding of the issues encountered by those animals. And that brings the journey full circle. Animals guided me to pursue this path—and now it is my privilege to do all I can to return the favor. In many ways, the work is just beginning!

How have these masterful teachers guided YOU in your life or work?

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    Patty Bowers says...

    March 23rd, 2012, 9:36 pm

    Thank you so much for your BLESSED work. This is BRILLIANT. You are a real innovator and wil lmake tremendous changes in the world!

    Stacy Hollister says...

    March 23rd, 2012, 9:47 pm

    30 years ago I was dragged to a zoo by a friend on a dark, cloudy, rainy day in Chicago. As we were leaving I felt a strange tug at my back. I turned around and 15 feet or so behind me stood a little arctic fox in am outdoor wire run. He was standing outside in the rain on pavement as there was no grass in his little enclosure. Our eyes locked and the misery and hopelessness of his life poured out of him and filled me with the pain he was experiencing. We gazed at each other for a good 10-15 seconds. It shocked me at first as he never broke eye contact. But then I knew he was trying to tell me of his plight, of his loss of hope and his fear of having no future. Tears began to pour down my face because there was nothing I could do for him, no place I could take him. I could not explain to my friend how these sentient beings all locked up in these cages were withering away, having had all freedom taken from them. How in return for their freedom they received nothing but the stares of people who saw them as entertainment. It was a pivotal moment for me. I became a vegetarian, now a vegan and began many years as an animal activist. All due to the day a little arctic fox spoke to me.

    Dorothy Lim says...

    March 23rd, 2012, 10:16 pm

    How wonderful. Congratulations. A new and much needed avenue for looking after other creatures that God has put here to share this planet with us. I hope many more churches and religious institutions will start such programs. Remember ones “Humanity” is judged by how you treat the weakest and most defenseless, surely this is our animals of all kinds, whether domestic, industrialized (food) or wild. Good luck I hope your idea spreads.

    Lea Harris says...

    March 23rd, 2012, 11:48 pm

    Good for you! This is needed alot and I’m happy you are paying it forward for happier more balanced generations to come.

    Heather M says...

    March 24th, 2012, 12:24 am

    Kris I think it is great that you are bringing your love of animals and creation into the Church.I think for so long this aspect of Creation has been missing from Church. Animals were after all created before us. The donkey was used to take Jesus for his ride on what we now call Palm Sunday. He was surrounded by animals when He was born. God made creation and said ‘It was good.” Every time I marvel at animals and creation I think about the Lord who made them and think Just how clever He is. I enjoy Nature and animals because to me they symbolise life at its best. Thank you for your article and keep up the good work you are doing. “It is good.”

    Ellie Mccaffrey says...

    March 24th, 2012, 10:49 am

    Wow! This is a great idea! I would love to be able to start something like this at my church. I have to research this to see how I can bring this to life.

    Lucenia says...

    March 24th, 2012, 5:22 pm

    No se si existe Dios , en este mundo, solo se que los seres humanos estamos hechos de un cuerpo y una energia ya sea buena o mala a lo que muchos llaman tener corazon o alma buena o no tener corazon y simplemente ser seres crueles con el mundo que nos rodea , es mas pienso que si existiera un Dios bueno como el que hablan los cucufatos no habria tanta injusticia ni crueldad con los animales en el mundo. He vivido toda mi vida con gente religiosa, pero mientras mas religiosas mas crueles son con los animales , llegan a matar a palos a los perros solo por haber hecho alguna travesura pequeña, y si les hablas de no comer carne , es como si les mostraras algo muy malo , yo he dejado de comer carne hace un año y mientras mas conozco a la gente mas amo a mis mascotas y mas pienso que este mundo deberia destruirse pronto .

    Lucenia says...

    March 24th, 2012, 5:29 pm

    Do not know if God exists in this world, only humans are made of a body and an energy whether good or bad in what many call have heart or soul or not having good heart and loved just being cruel to the world around us, is but I think if there is a good God as spoken by cucufatos would not have so much injustice and cruelty to animals in the world. I have lived my whole life with religious people, but the more religious are more cruel to animals, they kill the dogs with sticks just for doing little mischief, and if they talk about not eating meat, it’s like you showed them something very bad, I’ve stopped eating meat a year ago and the more I know people love my pets more and more I think this world should be destroyed soon.

    Tess says...

    March 27th, 2012, 12:47 pm

    It’s truly wonderful that your church is incorporating animal issues into their programs.
    We need to keep our eye on ALL God’s creatures including the pre-born babies that are killed in their mothers wombs.
    If we are truly compassionate to all creatures then our own species deserves to be included.
    God will judge us by the way we treat the weakest members of our society and pre-born children, animals on factory farms, in labs, on fur farms, in entertainment, etc., ALL NEED TO BE PROTECTED!
    Everyone must speak out about abortion being wrong, not a woman’s right.When we do this God will increase the species that we will be able to save, if we don’t we are ALL DOOMED!

    Remember Jesus said “let the little children come unto Me”.

    I have been a vegan for many years but until I started to speak up for the preborn babies, I felt that something was wrong/lacking in my life.

    Now I can say that the slaughter of the innocent includes my own species!

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