More than 60 percent of households in the U.S. have a companion animal, and many of the people living with those animals attend church services regularly, but only a small percentage of churches serve animals and their caretakers. Ahwatukee Foothills residents Kris and Craig Haley had an idea.
Kris and Craig had spent years working with animal advocate groups. Over the years they both had an awakening to the thought that their animals and all animals they were meeting had a spirit. They became aware that people often have a very spiritual connection with their companion animals but that connection isn’t often officially recognized by churches. So they made a call to Emerson Theological Institute. The director of the school listened to their idea for a course about animals. In the course of studying for their own doctorate, the Haleys developed a Department of Humane Religious Studies for the school. The main department is the Animal Chaplain Program. Kris and Craig are both ordained animal chaplains and since the formation of the program more than 25 students have graduated.
The ministry is more geared toward supporting the people who take care of the animals than the animals. The animals are the teachers but the humans sometimes need support.
The program is a three-module program. The second module is the one Craig focuses on in his own ministry, bereavement. In addition to bereavement the Haleys take prayer requests, offer veterinary hospital and hospice support, conduct memorial, remembrance or life celebration ceremonies, conduct naming and adopting ceremonies, and do animal blessings. As chaplains, the Haleys serve various religious communities and churches and animal adoption events to provide prayer, grief circles, classes and workshops online.
The Haleys oversee the Department of Humane Religious Studies at Emerson Theological Institute. The Animal Chaplain program is completely online. For more information on the church, visit www.onevoiceministry.com.
Creative Living Fellowship Church in Phoenix decided to recognize two animal chaplains as members of the church’s ecclesiastical team. There chaplains are available for members of the church looking for help with issues dealing with their companion animals. For more information on the church, visit creativelivingfellowship.com.