St Anne’s special service for pets on Sunday October 15 was a great success with hundreds of dogs and other animals flocking to the Cathedral for praise and blessing.

They came from Belfast and beyond to be at this very special service, and many of those present expressed delight at the opportunity to bring their pet to church to be blessed. PHOTO ALBUM

All the animals were well behaved, there was no fighting in the pews, no dogs chasing cats chasing hamsters, and even Norman the Parrot politely declined to heckle during the Rev Canon Mark Niblock’s reflection.

In this Mark said the service was meant to be fun, but also made the serious point about the place pets have in our lives.

“In so many ways they add to our wellbeing, calming us when we’re upset, listening to us rant and rave, enjoying special moments of joy, and walking with us through illness and bereavement,” Canon Niblock said.

“In spiritual terms a blessing is an opportunity to thank and praise God for something or someone, and to wish them well. Blessing our pets is not intended to be a gimmick or a magic charm, but to recognise their value in our eyes, and in God’s too, for they are part of the wonderful world in which we live.

“Blessing them is but a reflection of the place they have in our hearts, of the regard we hold them in, of the good they do us.

“And blessing them is maybe a way of seeking a blessing for ourselves and each other, for we all know that our pets give so much more to us than we can ever give to them. They will pass the blessing forward to us, their owners and keepers. For our pets to be blessed they will need us to be blessed also. So this service is for you, their owners, too.”

You can download Canon Niblock’s full reflection HERE.

The service, which captured the imagination of the public and the media, featured appropriate music and readings.

The hymns were ‘All Creatures of our God and King and ‘Now thank we all our God.’  The Choir sang Psalm 8 which includes the lines:

The Rev Jason Kernohan with Shelly, who had hoped to join the choir for the service and came dressed accordingly!

‘Thou makest him to have dominion of the works of thy hands
And thou has put all things in subjection under his feet;
All sheep and oxen
Yea, and the beasts of the field;
The fowls of the air and the fishes of the sea
And whatsoever walketh through the paths of the seas
O Lord our Governor
How excellent is they Name in all the World!’

The choir also sang ‘The Lord is my Shepherd,’ and the reading was from Genesis 1:24-31 recalling the creation of animals.

The prayers gave thanks for all creatures, for the organisations that seek to advocate and safeguard animal welfare, for animals who assist those with special needs, and for pets loved in the past who are still missed.

During the singing of the final hymn, a collection was taken for local animal welfare charities.

After a general blessing, owners were invited to have their pets individually blessed by members of the clergy, and it was certainly some sight to see a queue of well-behaved animals waiting patiently in line for their blessing!

Among those in line was Stephanie Johnston who brought beautiful rescued Greyhound Bronte along with her. Stephanie is involved with the charity Almost Home Greyhound which rescues former racing Greyhounds from all over Ireland. You can learn more about the charity on its Facebook page.

John and Violet had brought their four dogs along, including Minnie who is an amazing 17 and a half years old, and Bubu, an eight-year-old teacup Yorkshire Terrier who was travelling in a pram because she had just had an operation.

“This is just brilliant,” John said. “We often go to England and you get services for pets there all the time, so it is great to have one in Belfast.”

Christine and Jenson had brought their handsome Pug Elmo, aged two. “This is wonderful,” Christine said. “It is great to see so many dogs.”

Ivan and Carol Boyd had travelled from Muckamore with Archie, Bella and Maddy. “We got them all blessed. They are a very important part of life and they give us a lot and don’t ask for a lot in return, just a bit of love and affection,” Ivan said.

Ingrid Johnston said Blossom, her Jack Russell cross, had really enjoyed the music. “The whole idea of bringing people out for their pets is just lovely,” she said. “It was good fun and sent out a good message.”

(Photo at top of page features handsome boy Zak and petite Chiwawa Mary My Lovely,)