L.A. church opens doors to people, pets

WESTCHESTER, Calif. The Rev. Tom Eggebeen looks out over a small flock of parishioners at Sunday evening service, but he's hoping that will change.

His new idea to boost attendance is to invite the entire family, and that means bringing the family dog.

"It's a very simple worship service, we sing a hymn or two, there's prayers, but it's primarily the presence of the entire family if you will, even the four-footed members," said Eggebeen.

"Dogs with long fur and no fur, blondes and brunettes," listed Eggebeen.

So at 5 p.m. every Sunday, the Covenant Presbyterian Church in Westchester holds a canine service complete with doggie beds, special prayers and an offering of doggie treats.

Some even wear their Sunday best, and church goers say the idea just might keep them coming back to worship.

"I grew up going to church with my grandpa, to Catholic church, and then I saw this, and I thought this might be a great way to get back in to going to church every week," said Vicky Rambow, a service attendee.

"He sure loves coming. He sure loves seeing the other dogs here and the people here are all dog lovers and are very nice to him. So he experiences an environment of love and friendship," said Phil Leonardyee, another service attendee.

Many people share a deep bond with their dogs, and Eggebeen hopes this service will strengthen the church's connection to the community. So far, the response has been very uplifting.

"The overwhelming amount of positive response pouring in by e-mails and phone calls from all over has just astounded everyone including me. We touched a chord. We've touched a chord," said Eggebeen.

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