Friday, March 02, 2007

Baptist Cat Inspires Church

James Choate-Munitz

Members of Solid Rock Baptist Church in Short Pump, Virginia filed into the meeting hall expecting to approve a hometown boy for ordination. As they left several hours later, however, many members marveled over the fact that they had ordained a cat instead of the original candidate.

By the end of the next day, church pastor Robert Robertson had found no passage of scripture or church doctrine that explicitly forbade a church from ordaining a cat or any other pet. Robertson confirmed that at the evening service on Easter Sunday, Lowell, the 9-pound housecat owned by Solid Rock member Rick Hoover, will become the first known cat to be ordained by a Baptist church in the United States. Lutheran and Pentecostal churches have ordained cats on two previous occasions, both times in the mid-1960s.

The previous evening, 20-year-old Stephen Colton had arrived at Short Pump’s oldest Baptist church hoping to receive approval for his ordination. As church members were discussing the merits of Colton’s gifts and graces, Rick Hoover stood to speak. Hoover had been Colton’s 10th grade math teacher.

Hoover said, “I like Stephen as much as anyone in here, but I was his teacher. I mean no disrespect, but Stephen just isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. In fact, my cat’s probably smarter than Stephen.”

Mary Louise Gorfunkle, Hoover’s next door neighbor, agreed. “Lowell is pretty smart. He’s cute, too.”

Soon, other members of the congregation began to tell stories about Lowell, winner of Short Pump’s Cutest Cat competition in 2004 and 2006. At first, the tales seemed nothing more than typical stories, such as the cat rushing to the kitchen door when he heard the sound of his supper dish, or the adorable way he would leave decapitated rats on a neighbor’s front steps.

Soon, though, the real truth came out. Sylvia Grindel once heard Lowell meow the Lord’s Prayer. Art Samerson watched the cat prevent Samerson’s two-year-old son from walking into the street. Several parishioners claimed to have seen Lowell preaching God’s Word to stray dogs.

By the time the smoke had cleared, and after little actual debate, church members had approved Lowell for ordination. Unfortunately, for the eager Colton, no time was left for the body to take up the question of his ordination. Colton could not be reached for comment, but it is widely rumored that he flew to Brazil to become a missionary.

For now, residents of Short Pump are anticipating Lowell’s first sermon. He will preach at his Easter Sunday ordination service. Lowell’s owner thinks the cat will be ready. “Lowell is still taking all this in,” said Hoover. “This was a huge surprise for him, but if I know my cat, he’ll preach his heart out.”

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