I live in London, England and was brought up a Roman Catholic but I have drifted away from the church and I am now on a journey to find a new spiritual home. I work in the charity sector for an animal welfare organisation and over the years I have grown increasingly concerned by the lack of compassion displayed by many Christians of all denominations towards the non-human creation.
My charity was established in London over 100 years ago in the Victorian era by a group of Christians led by an Anglican vicar "for the benefit of the lost and starving dogs and cats of London so that they should have a sanctuary from the cold inhumanity they are being dealt outside." Alas, there is still much "cold inhumanity" in the world, much of it directed towards animals, whether it be the brutality of factory farming, the killing of animals for sport or the cruelty shown so often towards the domestic companion animals who share our lives and homes. Apart from the suffering all this inflicts on defenceless creatures, it often encourages an insensitive attitude towards the natural world on the part of those behaving in this way. Worst of all, it sets a bad example for others to follow, especially children.
I visit Russia on a regular basis to view my charity's projects there and it is a deeply depressing experience to encounter the blunt indifference shown towards God's creatures by so many Orthodox believers, including priests. I endeavour during my visits to engage in dialogue with Orthodox priests about this issue but I am met with a blank refusal. I want to initiate a dialogue, with a view, perhaps, towards the establishment of something like an Orthodox supporters group to promote kindness towards the non-human creation. I would also like to have the opportunity to discuss the possibility of establishing an annual animal blessing and thanksgiving service, something we hold here in London in association with our local Anglican church when the priest comes to our centre and the church members bring their animals to the service. It would have been appropriate - or so I thought - to hold such a service on the feast day of, say, St.Sergius or St.Seraphim, in view of their affinity with the natural world. I have also approached the Orthodox church here in London and was met with indifference and incomprehension, as though I was suggesting some radical reform of church practices.
In any event, although it has not proved possible so far to engage with my Orthodox brothers and sisters in a spiritual celebration of the non-human creation as I've outlined, I hope that in the future that this will prove a reality. In the meantime, if anyone knows of an Orthodox priest anywhere on the planet with an interest in this issue, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss with him the practicalities of organising such a service in an Orthodox context.