Earlier today, an Animal Blessing Service took place at the St. Martin of Tours Church in Detling, Kent. It is a very old church and is dedicated to St. Martin of Tours. The building was constructed in the 12th century with 13th and 15th-century additions and restoration carried out in the late 19th century. It is a Grade I listed building.
Brief note on the tradition of Orthodox Animal Blessings
Before we established the Pan Orthodox Concern for Animals Charity, we went and sought permission from Archbishop Gregorios of blessed memory. He immediately gave his permission and blessing. He also told stories of how, when he was a boy in Cyprus, his mother would come back with prosphoron and give some of it to their animals. After he was ordained, he would go into the garden and bless their animals. One might think this unusual until you learn that blessing animals has been an Orthodox Tradition for centuries. Indeed, there are famous prayers for animals from Saints Mamas and Modestos and there are, according to Met. Kallistos of Diokleia, ‘In the Orthodox book of blessings and intercession [Evchologion/Trebnik or Book of Needs] prayers for many species of animals, including bees and silkworms.’ The service today follows in this ancient Christian tradition.
Fr Simon Nellist is the Orthodox priest at The Church of the Annunciation in Boxley, Kent where the Rev. Robert Tugwell is the Anglican priest.
They came together on World Animal Pet Day, to perform a short but beautiful service to a small group of 9 people with 6 companion animals, all of which on this occasion were rescue dogs. (Picures on our FB site (6) Pan-Orthodox Concern for Animals | Facebook )
The service opened with Fr Simon reading the following prayer for companion animals and their owners, which included a section of the prayer of St Mamas:
Blessing for Companion Animals and their owners
Blessed is our God, always now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and God saw that everything was made and behold it was very good. Almighty God we come together to thank you for the beauty and the glory of your creation, to praise you and your holiness and grace, and to acknowledge our responsibility for our companion animals and to thank you for their friendship and the love that they show us. Let us pray with the whole church and in the words of the saints, poets, and theologians, for all those who acknowledge the beauty of your creation and in particular, for those animals in our care. Help us care for them with love and compassion, so that they may lead long and happy lives.
From the Prayer of St Mamas
Yes, O Lord our God, Who made the heaven and the earth, and Whose Word grants all things towards salvation to our people, do not neglect this my prayer, from Your humble and lowest servant; but hearken to me, O Lord Who loves mankind, and this my prayer when read, whether to wild, domesticated or companion animals. Do not let sickness or other temptation come close to these animals, that being always guarded by You, we might offer up glory and worship to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen
The Rev. Rob then asked the congregation to stand and sing the Hymn ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful.’ He went on to give a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the whole of creation, which he reminded us in a short sermon, is suffering because of our sinful ways. We prayed for the lives, companionship, love, and trust that we give and receive from our companion friends. He likened this special relationship to the special relationship we have with God – for it reminds us of the trust, faith and love we have in and for Him, who love and cares for all His creation.
A member of the congregation then sang a contemporary song on the beauty of creation.
The service closed with a blessing for the animals and their owners. There was no barking or mess and the animals were clearly happy to participate.
At the end of the service, doggie treats were available for the animals and the smiles of the owners spoke to the joy in their hearts at receiving this blessing.
At the end, one of the parishioners sat with her dog, speaking quietly with the priest at one end of the Church and reminded me of how in the ‘When Faith meets Fur’ story on our website, the opportunity arose for fellowship and teaching to one of his congregation, see here WHEN FAITH MEETS FUR – Pan-Orthodox Concern for Animals (panorthodoxconcernforanimals.org)