Pets welcome in God’s house
By Denise Baran-Unland Correspondent January 14, 2013 2:26PM
Florence Bean, the year-old Boston terrier belonging to Alicia Diamond of Joliet, checks out the action in the back of Second Chance Community Church in Joliet. Since its inception, the church has allowed guests and members alike to bring their pets. | s
If you go
What: Pet-friendly worship services
When: 11 a.m. Sundays
Where: Second Chance Community Church, 328 Wilhelm Court, Joliet
Etc.: All well-behaved pets welcome
Visit: www.secondchancejoliet.com and Second Chance Community Church on Facebook
Updated: February 16, 2013 6:13AM
Each Sunday, when Deacon Mark Pemble of Shorewood leads the praise and worship band at Second Chance Community Church in Joliet, he’s certain to include “Your Grace Is Enough.”
That’s because it’s the favorite of Jackie Blue, Pemble’s Australian shepherd border collie that accompanies him to church each week.
“She comes right up on stage with me,” Pemble said, “and carries a note better than I do.”
Jackie Blue, Pemble’s best friend, goes everywhere with Pemble, including vacations, roofing supply stores and his contracting jobs, where she either good-naturedly hangs out or waits patiently in his truck. Jackie Blue’s been a faithful church member for the past few years.
“All the people that go there know her and like her,” Pemble said. “She’s very well-behaved.”
Alicia Diamond of Joliet, whose year-old Boston terrier also attends the same church, said when her father Cliff Diamond of Joliet began Second Chance Community Church in 1995, services were held outside at parks and downtown plazas, so when members arrived with their dogs in tow, no one questioned it.
“Everyone started to treat the dogs like members,” Alicia said, “and we saw how much new people liked the dogs and how much more comfortable they felt coming to a new place when they were able to bring their dogs.”
Dogs became such an integral part of the church, no one questioned their presence when the church moved into an actual building. About four to five dogs typically “worship” each Sunday. Cliff can’t recall one instance of fighting among the canines, and he’s never had to reprimand an owner for an out-of-control animal.
“Pet owners are really responsible,” Cliff said. “Some owners hold their dogs on their laps or the dogs sit on the floor next to them. If a dog starts running around too much, the owner puts it on a leash. We’ve never had an issue.”
Across the country, more and more churches are opening their doors to pets, according to newspaper stories. Multiple factors have influenced this trend, including creative solutions to declining church attendance and the fact owners now consider their animals family members.
“Some people don’t like to leave their dogs at home,” said Cliff, who also brings his dog to church. “If you work, like my wife and I both do, and you’re gone all the time, you want to be able to spend some time with your pets.”
As Second Chance Community Church expanded its outreach (visiting senior citizens or serving meals to and offering movie nights for the homeless), members discovered the dogs were valuable additions.
“We recently did a service at an elderly home and the people just loved having the dogs there,” Cliff said. “The dogs make the homeless feel more at home with us and more comfortable bringing their dogs, too. It’s one of the first things they ask us.”
Even the dogs are benefitting from this arrangement. “The dogs are really calm and they’re very sociable with visitors because from being around other dogs all the time,” Cliff said.
For now, Second Chance Community Church has no official pet guidelines, meaning guests and members may simply show up with their pets. They don’t need to call ahead or receive special permission. Any pet is welcome. Alicia used to bring her baby bunny until he died a year ago.
“He was my best friend so I brought him everywhere,” Alicia said. “Literally, everywhere.” Cliff added, “We’ve never had anyone bring a cat, but we probably wouldn’t mind it. I have two cats at home and they get along with dogs.”