Miniature donkey plays big role in local church's Palm Sunday service

Caroline participates in many of the church's events

April 01, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE |
  • Mike Martin leads Caroline into Washington Square United Methodist Church sanctuary Sunday at the start of Palm Sunday service.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

For many people, seeing a miniature donkey at their Sunday church service would probably be startling, or at least an unusual occurrence.

At Washington Square United Methodist Church in Hagerstown’s West End, seeing Caroline the donkey in the church’s foyer on Palm Sunday didn’t seem surprising to many of the parishioners entering the church.

Caroline started coming to the church for special occasions about five years ago, starting with the Christmas season, when the church has a live nativity, said Caroline’s owner, Fairplay resident Harry Benton, and Dottie Crawford, who coordinated Caroline’s appearance on Sunday.

“The church has adopted her. She’s part of the church family,” Crawford said.

For Palm Sunday, Caroline participated in a procession down the church’s main aisle.

According to a prophesy in the Old Testament, the Messiah would entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey or colt, said the Rev. Jerry Lowans. Caroline served as a symbol and reminder of the day Jesus arrived, he said.

“I think any visual images you can add to worship enhances the worship itself and makes it more meaningful. Any symbols that you can add, not making them the focus, but a part of enhancing our worship service,” Lowans said.

Before Sunday’s service began, Caroline, beside Peg Martin, stood in the foyer, where parishioners could greet her before entering the nave.

Caroline was quiet and well-behaved, a big reason Benton said he chose her among his donkeys for the event.

Two of the church’s youngest parishioners were particularly taken with Caroline.

As 11-month-old Kolton Crawford reached from his mother’s arms for one of Caroline’s ears, his mother told him, “Careful, now don’t pull ears like Tank.”

Tank is the family’s Great Dane, whose ears Kolton likes to pull, said Megan Crawford, of Hagerstown.

Hunter Mitchell, 13 months, also reached from his mother’s arms to pet Caroline after his mother showed him it was OK to pet the donkey.

“I think it’s wonderful. I love it when they have the donkey here,” said Hunter’s mother, Kimberly Mitchell, of Hagerstown.

“It really gives you some insight as to how it was,” Mitchell said.

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