Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center will celebrate the Feast of St. Francis Sept. 30-Oct. 4 with vegan food, protests of animal cruelty, fasting, preaching and a traditional — and not so traditional — blessing of the animals.
The center is excited to welcome Sarah Withrow King, a Christian animal rights activist and author of the recent book “Vegangelical: How Caring for Animals Can Shape Your Faith,” to Chattanooga for the weekend.
“While this is a time to remember our responsibility as Christians to all of earth’s inhabitants,” Beth Foster, the center’s director said, “we also welcome our sisters and brothers of other faiths and who are non-religious in calling out and remembering the suffering of all life under the systems of oppression that are created in capitalism.”
Mercy Junction and Renaissance Presbyterian Church Pastor Brian Merritt said the weekend is also a renewal and public witness of the ministry’s commitment to non-violence and peacemaking, not just in interactions with humans, but in our relationships to all creatures and the earth itself.
“As vegans,” Merritt said, “we have the opportunity to practice non-violence and peacemaking at every meal.”
Below is a schedule of events for the weekend. All events are free, and open to the public, though a free will offering will be taken at many of the gatherings.
FRIDAY, SEPT. 30, 2016-Sarah Withrow King speaks at Southern Adventist University
In cooperation with the CreatureKind chapter at Southern Adventist University, the weekend will begin at 6 pm on the Collegedale campus where King will speak about her work with CreatureKind and her books. She will be speaking in Southern’s Student Park (behind the softball fields).
King is the deputy director of The Sider Center of Eastern University and the co-director of CreatureKind, which engages the church on farmed animal welfare issues. After college, King went straight to work in the nonprofit world, ensuring her lifelong material poverty. Wanting to combine her faith with her passion for advocacy on behalf of the oppressed and marginalized, King obtained an MTS with a concentration in Christian Faith and Public Policy from Palmer Seminary, where she realized that she wanted to reclaim word “evangelical” from the people who were giving it a bad name.
She is the author of “Vegangelical: How Caring for Animals Can Shape Your Faith” (Zondervan, 2016) and “Animals Are Not Ours (No, Really, They’re Not): An Evangelical Animal Liberation Theology” (Cascade Books, 2016).
King lives in Philadelphia with her husband and son. They share their home with two rescued dogs and two former street cats and are covenant members of Circle of Hope.
Copies of both of King’s books will be available to buy throughout the weekend.
SATURDAY, Oct. 1, 2016 — Vegan cookout, adoption event, King speaking/signing books and rodeo protest
Saturday’s events will begin at 2 pm at the Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center with a vegan cookout.
During the cookout, Mercy Junction community members will be talking about the next day’s annual Fast Against Slaughter, organized by the Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM), and part of World Day for Farmed Animals. Those who wish to participate can have their photos taken for social media with a message about why they will be fasting.
Those who attend can also make posters for the rodeo protest that will take place later in the evening. Poster board, markers and other supplies will be available for poster-making.
At 3 pm, King will again speak about her work and sign copies of her books.
The cookout will end about 4:30 pm.
At 6:30 pm, Mercy Junction community members and guests will move to the sidewalk outside McKenzie Arena to protest a rodeo by the Professional Bull Riders. The event begins at 7:30 and we plan to be present from 6:30 until about 7:45. This will be a peaceful demonstration on public property raising awareness about the inherent cruelty of using animals in entertainment and of rodeo shows.
The Professional Bull Riders have “cowboys” sit on the backs of frightened animals. “Bucking straps, electric prods, and spurs are used to hurt the animal and aggravate him into reacting more roughly than he would do naturally,” according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, while the “cowboy” tries to hold onto the animal.
“As the Professional Bull Riders’ website itself says, bull riders wear thick, metal spurs and use bucking straps in order to provoke bucking and ‘wild’ action needed to present this macho image of domination and control. These things would be called instruments of sadistic torture if used on humans,” according to Friends of Animals.
SUNDAY, OCT. 2 — St. Francis Sunday at Renaissance Presbyterian Church and the Fast Against Slaughter
In addition to marking World Day for Farmed Animals by participating in the Farmed Animal Rights Movement’s Fast Against Slaughter, there will also be a special service for St. Francis Sunday.
Foster will be preaching at Renaissance Presbyterian Church at 11:30 am on Sunday, Oct. 2 and talking about the history or animal rights in Christian faith and Christians’ current responsibility to all creatures with whom they share the planet. King will also speak at Renaissance about her work, and copies of her book will be available.
TUESDAY, OCT. 4 — Blessings Of The Animals throughout the day
St Francis Day is on Tuesday, Oct. 4 and Mercy Junction will mark it with a series of Blessings of the Animals. At noon, we will gather outside of the Tyson chicken slaughterhouse, and at 1 pm outside of the Pilgrim’s Pride chicken slaughterhouse. At both location we will lift up in prayers the lives — both human and non-human — that are harmed by industrial agriculture. We will end our services with a blessing for both the animals and the workers.
In addition to the suffering of animals, industrial agriculture brings great suffering to the vast majority of those who work within it — bringing profits to only the very wealthy. It is often the most exploited of human beings, those who are unable to find work in any other place, who are forced to work in the mass killing of slaughterhouses.
At 4 pm, Merritt will do a Blessing of the Animals for those dogs and cats who live at the Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center, including several rescued dogs and cats, as well as feral cats who show up for dinner each day, and building partners’ animals who visit the center frequently.
At 6 pm, there will be a Blessing of the Animals for the public. All are invited to bring domesticated animals to be blessed. Animals should be spayed/neutered, up-to-date on vaccinations, and in a carrier or on leash.