On Wednesday 28 October we hosted a Service of Thanksgiving for Doorkins who passed away on the 30 September
You can view this service below as well as download a copy of the Order of Service and read the Homily by The Very Revd Andrew Nunn, Dean of Southwark.
There’s something beautiful about the image of Adam moving amongst the animals, giving them names, searching for one that would be a suitable companion, a partner, a helper. There’s carefulness and respect going on. These creatures, with which humankind shared creation, were not just there for some utilitarian purpose. As soon as you give them a name you give them something fundamental, a character, a presence, almost a personality.
In the Confirmation service the bishop says to each of the candidates
‘God calls you by name and makes you his own.’
We give each other names and Adam names the animals in turn, searching for his Eve amongst them.
In Michelle Lovric’s lovely poem printed at the back of the order of service and written and illustrated by Susan Young for this occasion, she says something powerfully wonderful, that Doorkins was
Not domesticated but churched.
I began by saying that she was her own cat and all attempts to make her a cosy cat failed. She wasn’t interested in being cuddled or stroked, but she was interested in being here in her place of safety, especially after the terrorist attack which put her off ever going out of this sanctuary again.
There’s no theology of cats in the Christian church. Unlike other religions they don’t play a part. But we do have a theology of the stranger, of the one at the door, of the one who seeks refuge. We do have a theology of hospitality and welcome. We do have a theology of being there for the smallest, the least, the voiceless. We do have a theology of inclusion, a theology for the excluded. We do worship a God who has an option for the poor and emptied himself and became God with us, the foot-washer, the least, the servant of all.
Part of the power of the Doorkins story and partly why she captured so many people’s imaginations was that she just arrived and over time entered and we made her welcome. And people seemed to then conclude – ‘well, if this cat is welcome maybe I am as well.’
The challenge is not so much about why we as a community would dare to have a service for a cat in the middle of a pandemic but why it should be that the church seems to be in so many places unwelcoming to those who don’t see themselves reflected in our life, why it should take a stray, feral and at times unfriendly cat to bring the domestic to a place that couldn’t domesticate her. Why did we, who pride ourselves on a tradition of inclusion, need a cat to actually understand what the stranger in the midst really means.
Adam didn’t find a life companion amongst the animals even after he’d named them all, but he did take them all seriously enough to give them names. And God blessed him with Eve and Eve was blessed with Adam. But that doesn’t stop all those named animals being a blessing to us, and especially those of us who know that human relationships can be elusive and painful – and we look elsewhere for love, just as Adam looked for it.
Whatever pain or loneliness, or grief, or agony we are going through; whatever the uncertainties of this present time, however excluded you might feel from love, or society, or the church, one thing is certain, certain for me at least and that is, as it says in the Letter to the Ephesians, ‘the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge’, the love that holds the universe together, the love that brings us here today, the love that enfolds you, whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you are facing right now. God has an open door of love for you. God has an open door of love for us.
Reading: Genesis 2.18-22
A copy of the Order of Service can be downloaded here