HAMLET — Nearly a dozen pets, mostly dogs, dragged their human family members back to All Saints Episcopal Church Sunday to celebrate the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi on Sunday.
The blessing is an annual tradition in the Episcopal Church, with many parishes holding the special service of The Blessing of the Animals on the Sunday closest to the feast day of the saint known for his love of all animals. The Feast of Saint Francis is October 4.
The Rev. Stuart Hoke, vicar of All Saints, led the group in a prayer.
“We give you thanks, most gracious God, for the beauty of the earth, the sky and the sea; for the richness of mountains, plains and rivers; for the songs of birds and the companionship of animals,” they recited in unison. “We praise you for these good gifts, and pray that we may safeguard them for those who come after us. Grant that we may continue to grow in our grateful enjoyment of your creation, to the honor and glory of your name, now and forever. Amen.”
After a renewal of the “covenant” between humans and animals, and a prayer of remembrance for animals loved and lost, families and their pets lined up on the brick walkway leading toward the fountain in the church garden. One by one, Hoke called each pet by name and imparted the blessing. Charlie Heeley, an intern for the Epsicopal Diocese of North Carolina, sprinkled each pet with holy water using a small, leafy branch.
During the ceremony, Hoke explained that the placement of animals into human care imposes a “great responsibility” similar to that of Biblical Noah. He reminded the gathered of several Biblical scriptures aligning people — and even God — with animals, such as the Holy Spirit often bearing a resemblance to a white dove, and Jesus referred to as a lamb.
“O God, when we see the animals that you have made, help us to remember that you are holy and worthy of praise” Hoke prayed.
The pets and their people socialized in the garden briefly after the conclusion of the ceremony.
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.