The Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals encourages churches to commit one Sunday a year to be devoted to Animal Welfare. ‘Animal Welfare Sunday’ tends to be the nearest Sunday to St Francistide (4 October), but churches can use the resources here to mark the occasion at any time.
Many churches around the diocese have recently held special services and events to give thanks for their pets and to raise awareness of animal welfare, in response to the fifth mark of mission of the Anglican Church which states ‘To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and to sustain the life of the earth’.
On Animal Welfare Sunday (8 October) St John’s, Hartley Wintney hosted the annual service of the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals with an animal blessing service. The first to be held at St John’s for many years.
The human congregation were joined by a good number of dogs, a tortoise and a hamster and Revd Dr Jennifer Brown from the Oxford Diocese preached and assisted Revd Sam Chandler in blessing the animals. It was a joyful occasion and all the animals behaved themselves, although there were a few barks during the sung worship.
St James prides itself on being a church for everyone and everyone is welcome – that also includes our special companions! On Sunday 10 September, the church held a short informal Pet Service to celebrate animals of all shapes and sizes. Attendees were invited to bring their pets along to the service – preferably on a leash or in a carrier! Alternatively, they could bring a photo of their pet if the goldfish tank was a bit awkward to carry…
It was mostly dogs in attendance, though a couple of folk brought photos of their pets. The cats were consulted, but were unable to fit the service into their busy schedules! With photos and animals, the congregation celebrated four dogs, four cats and two tortoises, and gave thanks for animals more generally.
Part of thanking God for the pets who share our lives involved saying a short prayer:
Eternal Father, We thank you for these creatures who live alongside us as our companions and friends, for their loyalty, love and trust which enriches our lives and gives us joy. Help us to be kind and gentle and to treasure and care for them, We ask this through Jesus Christ whose love gives life to us all, Amen
A Pet Service took place at St Francis Church on Sunday 1 October, with lots of dogs in attendance! This reflected one goal of the Pet Service, which was to raise money for a local charity that trains assistance dogs – there was a collection for this during the service.
The animals who attended the service, along with all God’s creatures, were given a blessing, and the pet owners were incredibly touched by the event. One attendee said that it was a ‘moving service highlighting how furry friends enrich our lives.’ He also commented that as a former postal operative, he’d ‘never been in the company of so many dogs and not got bitten!’
On Sunday 10 September, the Hospital of St Cross family service extended their welcome to a range of pets. It was a great joy to celebrate outdoors surrounded by four legged friends, and the weather was lovely too. As you’d expect, dogs were the main pet brought along, and they were just as excited to be there as the humans – they got to make new friends!
One attendee remarked that the service was ‘beautiful and sentimental’, and just about everyone loved being surrounded by (mostly well behaved) pets! Such services are a wonderful opportunity to thank God for the numerous gifts He provides, whether that’s companionship in the form of a pet, or a service animal that can assist in all sorts of ways.