At first, the animals in the Great Forest didn’t have a meetinghouse. They worshiped in a little clearing between the trees. They did so very happily. It was peaceful and sunny and sheltered from the wind. There seemed to be no reason for change.
One day, when a soft, thin blanket of clean snow covered the clearing, Dog mentioned something after worship. He said that he had heard that sometimes, worship happened inside a building called a meetinghouse. He wondered whether the animals should have such a building.
And so they stood in a circle to discern: Dog, Fox, Owl, Rabbit, Squirrel, Wolf, and Cat. Dog posed the question: “Should we build a meetinghouse?” And the animals listened quietly inside themselves.
Fox spoke first. Her message was about how peaceful and warm she felt in the clearing.
Squirrel spoke second. His message was about how the trees around them reminded him of the Great Spirit’s abundance–how all the animals would always be fed.
Rabbit spoke third. Her message was about how safe and snug she felt in the little clearing with her friends.
It seemed like they didn’t need a meetinghouse.
But then Cat had a question. “Where is Ant?”
The animals looked around. They did not know the answer.
“Sometimes,” said Cat, “Ant comes to worship. Sometimes Ant does not come to worship. He isn’t here today. I think we should find him and ask him why. I think we should not decide about the meetinghouse without him.”
So together, the animals went to see Ant and ask him why he had not come to worship.
When they found him, Ant was standing on a rock beneath a tree, out of the snow. They greeted him and asked, “Why are you not at meeting today?”
Ant said, “Because of the snow. When there is even a little snow in the clearing, I cannot come to worship. I am not tall enough. I would be buried.”
“Maybe,” said Rabbit, “we do need a meetinghouse.”
But the animals were not sure. This felt like a big change.
Then Cat asked, “Who else is not here?”
At first, the animals did not know. But then Owl remembered Bear, who had often come to worship as a little cub. Owl said, “I miss Bear. She hasn’t been to worship in a long, long time. I think we should find her and ask her why.”
So together, the animals went to see Bear and ask why she had stopped coming to worship. (Fox gave Ant a ride on her back.) When they found her, she was shy about answering their question at first. But they were patient. At last, Bear, said, “When I was a little cub, the clearing felt snug and safe. But when I got bigger, it felt too small. I am much bigger than all of you. In the clearing, I take up too much space.”
“Then maybe,” said Rabbit, “we need a large meetinghouse. And it would need to be in a bigger clearing.”
This felt like a big, big change. They were still and quiet for a little while, listening for help from the Great Spirit.
Wolf felt very squirmy inside. Quite suddenly, he said, “I have a friend. Her name is Fish. I want to invite her to meeting for worship. But she can’t come to the clearing. She can’t even come to a bigger clearing. My friend Fish can’t leave the water.”
All the animals took a big breath, and Rabbit said, “So…what we need is…a large meetinghouse…in a new place…with a stream running through it.”
And this was a big, big, big change.
How do you think that Dog felt inside right then? What about Cat, or Rabbit, or Bear?
Are there any animals in this story that remind you of you?