The blessings will be handled by church elder Eric Ackermann, a lifetime member of the church and an animal lover.
“I’m definitely a pet person,” Ackermann says, explaining why he loves leading the ceremony every year. “I enjoy seeing all the pets people bring to the church, not only the dogs and cats, but the fish and the birds. All pets are welcome here.”
And if your pet is unable to attend due for any reason, Ackermann says come anyway and bring a picture of the pet to receive a blessing.
“Over the past few years we’ve even had people hand me cell phones with a picture of their pet on it and we’ve blessed them that way,” he says, adding that this is a good alternative “especially for pets that are too ill to attend or for beloved pets that have passed away.”
Two pets that have attended every blessing ceremony at Emanuel are a pair of turtles belonging to Pam and Walter Steffens. They got the pair, named April and Jason, at the Woodhaven Street Fair on Jamaica Avenue 25 years ago.
“We bring them every year,” Pam said. “Twenty-five years is a long time, I think they hold the record!”
“When we first got them, they were tiny,” Walter added. “You could fit them both in the palm of your hand. Not anymore!”
We first met the nice folks at Emanuel at the Blessing of the Pets ceremony in 2009, making this year the 10th year in a row we’ll be attending, an anniversary of our own.
We were driving my mom to Pathmark when we saw a crowd of people, a bunch of them with dogs, across the boulevard in front of the church. In those days, we carried our cameras with us everywhere, always on the lookout for stories for our website.
So we made a U-turn under the bridge, got parking nearby, and walked over to see what was happening. In addition to all the nice pups, there were cats in carrying cases and Pam and Walter’s two turtles.
We were welcomed with warmth and stayed for the entire ceremony, which used to be held on the steps of the church (a good thing, too, otherwise we may have missed it).
But a few years back, during some inclement weather, they moved the blessing inside and everyone liked that so much it’s been there ever since. I have to say that it’s a nice sight, seeing the pets wandering around the inside of that beautiful church.
We didn’t know it at the time, but we hadn’t just found a nice local ceremony, we had made lifelong friends.
Life’s funny that way, you never know what impact simple actions can have. Make a left turn at a corner instead of going right, and maybe your life turns out completely different depending on which choice you make.
We made a U-turn that day and discovered this wonderful little ceremony run by these warm, caring people, and we’re so glad that we did.
This year, we’re planning on bringing one of our three cats to the blessing. Two of them wouldn’t be good candidates, they’re far too skittish, but we’re bringing Big Sexy Lucky with us on Saturday.
She’s a good cat and she likes people. We’ll bring pictures of the others, including a few that are no longer with us.
So, for those at home keeping score, this will be April and Jason’s 25th Blessing, our 10th and Big Sexy Lucky’s first. Hopefully we’ll see some of you with your pets on Saturday morning, we would love to meet them.
And speaking of anniversaries, after the blessing drop by Neir’s Tavern, where their 190th Anniversary Block Party will be underway until 6 p.m., with the party continuing inside during the evening. Hope to see all of you this weekend.