Parishioners’ pets, from goats to worms, were blessed at a church service in Bampton yesterday. St Mary the Virgin Church, in Church View, held a service to bless the animals in a bid to increase church numbers.

About 100 people – 30 more than normal – and about 20 pets, including dogs, ferrets, goats and even worms, attended the event on Sunday.

The service was animal-themed throughout and the congregation gave thanks for God’s creations and sang All Creatures Great and Small.

At the end, parishioners and their pets queued to be blessed by the vicar, who touched each on their head before reading a short passage.

It was the first time the church, which has been used as a set for ITV period drama Downton Abbey, has had an animal blessing service.

Parishioner Karen Easterbrook, 42, took along two four-year-old Toggenburg goats, brothers Cappuccino and Latte, to be blessed. She said: “They should do it every Sunday.

“It’s fun and brought in people who do not always come to church on a Sunday.”

Her son, eight-year-old Padraig, who attends church weekly, said: “I enjoyed it and liked looking at the pets.”

Parishioner Fiona Farmer, 48, said: “I thought it was fantastic.

“It was great for the community to get together and to bring more children into the church and have a more relaxing service.”

Her teenage son, Ollie, 13, said: “It was all right. It was a bit more fun than normal because of the pets.”

They took along their seven-year-old Blue Roan English Cocker Spaniel Abbi to be blessed.

Parishioner Jill Ruck, 82, took along two worms to be blessed by the vicar in an attempt to improve the yield from her garden.

She said: “I am a very keen gardener and I no longer have a dog.

“The worms fertilise the soil and therefore having them blessed will increase the garden yield.”

She added: “I thought the service was good and a great way to encourage the children to find church fun.”

Parishioner Dennis Bambury, 77, said: “At first I was apprehensive about today but I really enjoyed it.

“There were so many young people who you’d not always see in church.”

The Rev David Lloyd, vicar of St Mary’s, said: “Pets are part of people’s lives and their family, and we can celebrate them as part of the creation.

“Doing something different brings different parts of the community into church.

“[The blessings] simply to show they are God’s creatures, that he looks after them and loves them as much as us.”

He said he did not see why the church could not hold another pet blessing .



The blessing

“God our maker, all things belong to you.
We praise you for giving us the animals, birds and fish which fill your world. We thank you for our families and the happiness which our pets give us. We ask you that we may always be good to them, so that they may be happy too. And we pray that all your children may enter the kingdom of heaven where we shall see even more wonderful things, And where we shall live and love for ever. This we ask to your eternal praise, and to our blessing.Through Jesus Christ, our lord.”
Blessing to each individual pet and owner:
[Name of pet], God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, bless you. May you and [owner] enjoy life together and find joy with the God who created you.