There are many excuses one might have for not going to church Sunday morning. Wanting to spend quality time with your dog can no longer be one of them.
On a large wooden platform recently at Central Dog Park at Central Christian Church, a Great Dane had taken his place. Around him, other dogs ran back and forth – a squirrely terrier even attempted to join him – as a small group of people gathered for fellowship. They sang worship songs, such as “Surely the presence of the Lord,” and “They’ll know we are Christians,” and read about the clashing relationship between Paul and the Corinthians.
Members of the North Dallas church see the dog park service as the perfect opportunity to meet neighbors exactly where they’re at.
Long before the first and third Sunday became designated “church in the dog park” days, those living near the Oak Lawn adjacent house of worship often found themselves congregating at the dog park. To this day, there is still a group that meets every morning at 7:30 a.m. and again at 4 p.m.
“We realized there is a lovely community out here that does church,” Tyson Woods, an arborist, and member of Central Christian Church said. “It’s not quite your normal church, but they love and support and encourage each other in a really special way, and we wanted to become more of a part of that.
That realization spurred the hour-long church service that draws a range of participants from students at UT Southwestern Medical School to members of the community who didn’t have a home church, Woods said.
Susie Summers, who is a regular member of Highland Park United Methodist Church, has also found a home at the Central Dog Park church. In fact, it was her dog Biscuit that helped identify the space where the park now sits on one of his famous lone walks.
“I just think it’s special to be out here in God’s creation with our dogs and be able to have church service too,” Summers said.
Woods said that the church’s prayer is that people really live through God’s presence as they come into the park.
“I run into people all the time that talk about, ‘Oh, that place is really peaceful,’ That’s what our hope is, that people who come here are lifted up and renewed,” he said. “There are lots of people in this neighborhood, younger people with dogs, who are not called to a traditional Sunday morning service. Our hope is that we might bring them closer to God through this experience.”