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PC(USA) church in Iowa celebrates all God’s creatures, great and small


First Presbyterian Church of Mt. Pleasant has envisioned a way to care for the pets loved by God and by us

February 15, 2023

All God’s Creatures, a commissioned ministry of First Presbyterian Church of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, will break ground on its very own building to shelter animals. (Photo by Trey Hegar)

The First Presbyterian Church of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa — believing where there’s God’s will, there is always a way — envisioned a way to care for God’s beloved creatures.

Prior to the pandemic, the church began a new ministry called All God’s Creatures. Its mission was to connect the hands and paws of the community, says Kate Ridinger, an AGC board member, noting that the “need has only grown.”

“Animals are a gift, our pets are a gift, and we have to do better for them and us,” she said.

In 2020, All God’s Creatures received over $300,000 in a donation from a couple’s estate in a neighboring county designated for an animal rescue organization. During the pandemic, the board instituted a trap, neuter and release program for cats.

All God’s Creatures then began providing pet rehabilitation and adoption services as well as exploring ways to reach out to the community, offering volunteer opportunities and working with adults and youth with disabilities, veterans and nursing home residents.

“There’s power in volunteerism that will give our youth a sense of purpose,” said Ridinger.

But God had something bigger in mind for this growing ministry, and the board of All God’s Creatures would soon discover that nothing thwarts God’s plans, not even in the tumult of a pandemic and the fallout of what do with all those Covid pets that had no place to go when their owners emerged from lockdown — especially the animals of Mt. Pleasant, which had no animal shelter for them. That is, until now.

In the fall of 2021, a property came up for sale in a green space perfectly suited for the animal advocacy group. According to Ridinger, what followed was a year of investigation, research and prayer, including how the church could be involved, what kind of fundraising was needed and a determination of the costs of the operation.

All God’s Creatures closed on the property this past summer. While the bulk of the staff will be volunteer, the board will hire a director who will work to create jobs in the community, and two part-time animal care specialists. Plans are now in place to renovate the building, and the shelter hopes to be operational in 2023, accommodating up to 12 dogs and 50 cats, according to Ridinger.

Through All God’s Creatures, First Presbyterian Church of Mt. Pleasant hopes to reach the most vulnerable people in the community. (Contributed photo)

“We were encouraged to develop sustainable ministry programs by the Presbyterian Mission Agency. All God’s Creatures is one of our commissioned ministries,” said the Rev. Trey Hegar, pastor of the 250-member First Presbyterian Church of Mt. Pleasant. A sustainable ministry program supports the work of a nonprofit and creates jobs.

Currently, All God’s Creatures is researching the possibility of sustainable business models such as dog grooming. The revenue will support the outreach programs, staff and animal care, and a 10% tithe will go to the church.

“The tithes from our ministries are part of our congregation’s long-term outlook. In 20 to 30 years, congregations may not have as many members who regularly pledge. We hope to continue to create ministries that meet the needs in our community, create jobs and help sustain the ongoing work to build the kin-dom of God,” said Hegar.

The pastor, though, is quick to clarify that the vision behind All God’s Creatures was and is not to gain church members.

“We may get a few new members, but All God’s Creatures is not about us and our church. It’s about growing the way of Jesus. The shelter will connect thousands who get to share and receive the unconditional love of God, and even though it doesn’t happen on Sunday morning, what it represents is in the name — All God’s Creatures,” he said.

Yet, the church has attracted new members since it began focusing outwardly on the surrounding community. For example, Kathy Nellor joined the church while serving on the board of All God’s Creatures.

“The church is walking the walk, is action-oriented, has feet on the ground. It’s carrying out a mission, not just financially supporting one. It’s showing God’s unconditional love to all God’s creatures and doing what God wants us to do, caring for animals and providing companionship for others,” she said.

Sherry Blackman is the pastor of the Presbyterian Church of the Mountain in Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania.

Today’s Focus: First Presbyterian Church of Mt. Pleasant , Iowa

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Corey Schlosser-Hall, Deputy Executive Director of Visioning, Rebuilding and Innovation, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Jeanie Schmuckie, Legal Assistant, Presbyterian Foundation

Let us pray

Lord Jesus Christ, even when it seems our small “loaves and fishes” are shrinking before our eyes, you remain Lord of your church. May you work ever-new miracles of abundance through our efforts and give us always your vision as we seek to remain faithful in times of changes. Amen.

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