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home : columnists : columnists October 22, 2017

10/7/2017 4:00:00 AM
Giving blessings for our animals
The Times photo by Betsy ReasonAmanda Moore watches as Pastor Teri Ditslear blesses Indy, her Siberian husky, during pet blessings last Sunday at Federal Hill Commons.
The Times photo by Betsy Reason

Amanda Moore watches as Pastor Teri Ditslear blesses Indy, her Siberian husky, during pet blessings last Sunday at Federal Hill Commons.

By Betsy Reason

Last weekend was Pastor Teri Ditslear's fourth year to perform animal blessings for the community.

The event, put on by her grass-roots church, Roots of Life, is always around the first Sunday of October and brings out all sorts of animals.

This year, the family-friendly, dog-friendly, cat-friendly, oxen-friendly event moved from Forest Park to the new Federal Hill Commons west of the White River in downtown Noblesville.

"We don't have a regular worship service. It's sort of a come-and-go-as-you-want," she said, while greeting animals and their owners during the two-hour event last Sunday.

She met one-one-one with animals, offering each pet a blessing, bestowing free unconditional love to every creature who needed a little pet therapy.

"Owners have asked for healing for their pets and for them to be calm during their illnesses," Ditslear said.

There were some rescue dogs, one a black mix that was blessed two years ago, and over the past winter fell through the ice and survived. Her owner believes it was thanks to the pastor's blessing and the tag that the dog was wearing around its neck.

"I'll take credit for it," said Teri Ditslear who, for each pet, signs a certificate of blessing and bestows upon each animal a complimentary tag with the words, "God Loves Me."

Owners brought mostly dogs and cats, but in previous years have asked for blessings for animals as large as oxen. "I'd really like to get some exotics," said Ditslear, who has blessed a snake named Cornelia, and a guinea pig, and some cyber blessings for folks whose pets don't do well in crowds.

The day was perfect, sunny and warm. Animals and their owners relaxed at the park's picnic tables, while listening to live bluegrass music by Stolen Strings, a band featuring Noblesville High School guitar teacher Jay Jasper, along with Ricke Young on banjo, Jason Boley on mandolin and Mindy Reichelt-Abell playing bass.

They also had kids' activities that include making little dog puppets, and served refreshments and sold dog treats. Donations went to Pets for Vets, based in Fort Wayne.

Ditslear brought her own miniature black poodle, Rootie Patootie Punkin Pie. "She hasn't seen the concrete yet because people keep holding her," said Teri Ditslear of her 5-year-old canine, who she says is "pretty rotten."

Pastor Teri Ditslear, the wife of Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear, writes a weekly column, Joy in the Journey, in The Times. In last week's column, she said, "I think God made dogs to show us humans how to live."

A couple of years ago, after a tireless search, the Ditslears adopted Rootie, a surrender animal at the Humane Society for Hamilton County.

She started the pet blessings after discovering that communities around the world celebrate St. Francis of Assisi Day, the Patron Saint of Animals and Ecology. "I wanted it to be a festive affair."

More than five years ago, Teri Ditslear went back to school to be an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. She pastored at Westfield's New Joy Church as an intern, then Cross of Grace in New Palestine for a short time, then was "called to be a pastor to start a new church."

She started Roots of Life, a Lutheran church that has about 100 members and worships about 65 people every Sunday at 222 Lakeview Drive, just north of Logan Street. The church that started at the Ditslears' home moved to the Baptist Church, then Randall & Roberts Funeral Home and Logan Street Sanctuary before moving to the current leased space. "We rely on people's offerings, tithes and offerings," said Teri Ditslear, who pastors while her husband is a barista, serving coffee to guests.

Roots of Life invites the community for Sunday worship at "10:30-ish." Teri Ditslear says "ish" because "people were coming in very last-minute, and we linger a little bit at the very beginning.....I say church begins when you walk in the door because it's fellowship time and catching up with people."

With her husband being in politics and a Republican mayor in Noblesville, she was "a little afraid" in the beginning to let people know that she was a pastor.

Now, she said, "I feel like I'm finally doing what I'm supposed to be doing."

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