When wildfires raged across Nevada in July, Chad Adamik knew he needed goats.
Adamik, who is pastor at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Family in Carson City, Nev., oversees three acres of landlocked church and school property. As fires encroached from the northwest and the south, Adamik grew concerned: The property’s weeds were overgrown and prone to spreading fire. Knowing that bighorn sheep, the official state animal of Nevada, have long served as Nevada’s resident lawnmowers, Adamik sought out a similar solution for the church grounds.
“Animals aren’t just cute or cuddly, they’re a value because God created them to do certain things and they have a really important impact on the rest of the planet,” Adamik told Sojourners. “Wildfire is a major concern. We expect fires to happen, but when it happens you really don’t know where it’s going to go. There aren’t resources to put out a bunch of fires if it gets out of control.”
Adamik noted that the sheep started declining in the 1800s when settlers came to the state. (The sheep were the first species to be listed under the Endangered Species Act.) That’s a huge loss, Adamik said because the sheep naturally help mitigate wildfires by grazing on tall weeds and grass.
But bighorn sheep aren’t the only grazers available in Nevada; Adamik contacted Dennie and Shari Cook of High Desert Graziers, local ranchers who rent out their goats to graze on property. The goats were far out of the church’s budget, so the Cooks donated 260 goats, along with four dogs to guard the goats, for five days of grazing.
“We just thought that was the right thing to do,” Dennis Cook told Sojourners. “That lot was in need of fire mitigation.”
Adamik was relieved and grateful; before the goats and dogs departed on Aug. 1, Adamik said a spontaneous blessing over them, thanking God for their fire-mitigating work. The video was later posted to Saint Paul’s Twitter page with the hashtag #GoatsMakeLifeBetter.
‘Blessing of Goats / Herding Dogs’, after Sunday’s 10:30 service. Sunday was the last day the goats will be doing fire mitigation at St. Paul’s. We thank Dennie & Shari Cook, of High Desert Graziers, for their donation of this service! #GoatsMakeLifeBetter pic.twitter.com/RAaFZOVhAk— Pastor Chad Adamik (@chad_adamik) August 2, 2021
Although Dennie Cook said that the goats were blessed “when God made them,” they had never been formally blessed before their time with Adamik.
“They’re a blessing to us,” Cook said. “The blessing over them was perfect — the way it should be.”
It’s not the first time Adamik has done a blessing of animals. Every October on the feast of Saint Francis, the church celebrates an outdoor service during which he blesses the animals of Saint Paul’s faith community. Saint Paul’s has also hosted a bunny rescue group to raise awareness of being “good stewards of what God’s given us,” said Adamik.
Adamik blessed the goats after Saint Paul's second church service of the day.
“It just kind of happened,” Adamik said. “Basically, the blessing was a recognition and showing gratitude to God who gave us all of these creatures and who gave us our lives and ourselves to help be stewards of all of creation.”
Adamik hopes the story will help all faith communities work toward living out the gospel message of all creation as interdependent and interconnected.
“When we read the creation stories in Genesis, a lot of folks see the distinctions that God created as being separate, with humans being separate from the rest of creation; further, like the boss of everyone else,” Adamik said. “Really, [Genesis] shows how creation really is an interconnected web.”