ST. LOUIS – Walking around the America’s Center Convention Complex, where the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 223rd General Assembly is being held, it’s impossible to miss the red-vested liaisons from Giddings-Lovejoy, the hometown presbytery of the greater St. Louis area. While all of the volunteers from Giddings-Lovejoy have been incredibly helpful, warm and welcoming, one in particular stands out.
Meet T-Rex, the resident pastoral care dog for the 223rd General Assembly.
At 12 years old, this volunteer is younger than most – although he’s already sporting a few gray hairs in his curly mohawk. It’s his first General Assembly, but he sat in on some classes at Columbia Theological Seminary with his mom, Thirza Sayers, so rest assured he knows the ropes (as well as 26 tricks, among them “cuddle”and “say your prayers”).
If he’s not at the convention center, you might be able to catch him curled up in the front pew of Hillside Presbyterian Church in House Springs, Missouri, where Thirza Sayers is the pastor. She says she recognized that T-Rex had a pastoral instinct years ago, when they were living in an apartment complex. “About once every month or two, when I was taking him outside, he’d stop and knock outside of someone’s door. And it always turned out that someone in that apartment was sick or grieving,” Sayers said, adding, “He’s intuitive, you can tell because sometimes he gives people more lingering cuddles than usual.”
According to Sayers, T-Rex helps out with the worship service too: “My congregation says he’s the best greeter they’ve ever had. He’s good at the children’s sermon, too. And he’ll get up from his spot in front of the first pew to pass the peace.”
But, before you get the wrong idea, T-Rex isn’t always warm and fuzzy. He’s got a tough streak, too. “He’s herded bison before,” Sayers said. “My parents have a bison ranch and he’ll get them running loops around the pasture.”
While Sayers and T-Rex plan to be at the convention center most days this week, they do have some appointments at a local hospital. But a sure time to catch them on Friday, June 22, when Sayers and T-Rex will be saying a prayer during assembly worship.