Animals in Selsey and Fernhurst blessed

The larger of the two ponies at St Peter's Church
The larger of the two ponies at St Peter's Church

CHURCHES in Selsey and Fernhurst have welcomed in unusual congregations for St Francis Tide animal services.

The Blessing of Animals service at St Peter’s Church, Selsey, on Thursday was a simple occasion designed to celebrate the feast day of St Francis of Assisi.

From dachshunds to wolfhounds, there were dogs galore at St Margaret's Church, Fernhurst, on Sunday

From dachshunds to wolfhounds, there were dogs galore at St Margaret's Church, Fernhurst, on Sunday

Father Andy Wilkes, the new parish priest, has been ordained for six years but this was the first time he has held such a service.

Many people, young and old, took along their pets, large and small, to the church for a special blessing.

“We welcomed one hamster, one budgie, about 25 dogs and two ponies,” said Fr Andy.

“They were all wonderfully behaved and left no mess.

Father Andy Wilkes blesses the smaller of the ponies

Father Andy Wilkes blesses the smaller of the ponies

“”I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but really wanted to celebrate the diversity of creation. I think the owners were pleased to have their pets blessed and I was pleased to be able to let each of them know that God loves them, too.”

Following the success of the occasion, Fr Andy plans to hold a similar service again next year.

At St Margaret’s Church, in Church Road, Fernhurst, village pets gathered for the special animal service on Sunday, the Feast of St Francis of Assisi.

From dachshunds to wolfhounds, there were dogs galore, although labradors outnumbered all other breeds. Cats and rabbits also attended but dogs were in the majority.

There were dogs, too, at the Selsey animal service

There were dogs, too, at the Selsey animal service

The Rev Nick Haigh led the service with the appropriate hymns All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Creatures of our God and King, and Think of a World Without any Flowers, and prayers involving pets.

Judith Turner said: “Several dogs joined their owners on the pews, giving rise to the thought that they slept on sofas.

“The occasional deep sigh was heard, and a few barks, but otherwise everyone behaved beautifully, and not only because of the rewards of biscuits available for good behaviour.

“Several brave owners took their pets into the Parish Room afterwards, where the humans were served tea and biscuits, but none of those involved included the labradors, with their total fascination with food.”

St Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of animals and many churches across the country hold an annual service of thanksgiving and animal blessing at the time of the feast day.

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