How did 260 goats end up being blessed at St. Paul Lutheran Family in Carson City, Nevada?
“It was a pretty big ordeal,” said Chad Adamik, pastor of St. Paul. “We were in a really bad drought … and the goats were [doing] what they call ‘fire mitigation.’”
No kid-ding—the goats were working on St. Paul’s 4 acres, which were overrun with cheatgrass this past August. They’re employed by High Desert Graziers in Wellington, Nev., owned by Dennie Cook.
Adamik said Cook’s goats had been grazing outside St. Paul’s property, and when Cook noticed the congregation’s cheatgrass crisis, he offered his company’s services.
When Adamik learned how much fire mitigation would cost, he told Cook the church couldn’t afford him. In the past, members mowed the cheatgrass—a fire hazard in Carson City’s hot climate. (Though wildfires hadn’t entered Carson City, Adamik noted that this summer the city experienced unusually high levels of air pollution from fires further west.)
Cook responded with a generous offer: he’d let his herd graze at St. Paul for free. “It was completely unexpected,” Adamik said. “We were very, very appreciative of that.”
“Having the goats out here helped … highlight that animals are wonderful companions and they do provide a lot of love and they do provide a function in order to keep the circle of life going.”
Wednesday through Saturday, the goats grazed, and people would stop by to watch them, he added. On Sunday, the goat’s final day working the grounds, Adamik visited after St. Paul’s second worship service and offered a spontaneous blessing.
He prayed over all 260 goats plus a handful of herding dogs that day, giving thanks for the way the animals baa-lessed the congregation and community.
“Having the goats out here helped … highlight that animals are wonderful companions and they do provide a lot of love and they do provide a function in order to keep the circle of life going,” Adamik said.
Furthermore, the goats inspired the congregation’s council to discern how they might develop their property to better serve the Carson City community. Homelessness has grown in the area recently, he noted.
Animal blessings in ELCA congregations are common, though they typically take place in October. Earlier this week, the church at large recognized Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. In celebration, many ELCA congregations—including St. Paul—offer (or have already offered) pet blessings.
“The creation stories in Genesis and Hebrew Scripture point to the fact that all [creation] is a gift,” Adamik said. ”An awareness of this gift will hopefully elicit a response [from God’s people] to care for that which has been given to us.”