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St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Harriman, will join other churches across the country on Oct. 2 in the tradition of the Blessing of Animals.
The line of pets — everything from dogs and cats to hamsters and horses — will begin forming at 2 p.m.
All animals — four legged, two legged, Episcopalian or other, furry, feathered or scaled — are welcome.
“This will be our second year to celebrate this wonderful activity,” said the Rev. Joseph Pinner, St. Andrew’s rector, who will preside. “It was so well received last year that we believe it should be an annual event offered to our community.”
Photos or an article related to a pet who cannot attend may be brought to the ceremony to be blessed. Each pet and caretaker will receive a memento of the blessing to take home. Light refreshments will be served for all pets and their caretakers.
This ceremony may be traced back to the 4th century, when animals were first allowed into the church to be blessed. Most churches celebrate the event in early October on or near the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, well-known to Christians for his humble life and love of animals.
In the 13th century, St. Francis established a Christian monastic order based on simplicity of life, service to humanity and deep respect for all of God’s creation, especially animals. He taught that animals should be treated with dignity and respect.
At the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, for example, an annual procession of animals — anything from fish to an elephant including a yak, a tortoise, baby swans and a macaw — trudge up the church steps to the altar for a blessing.
People gather annually with their cats, dogs and other pets at Duke University’s Chapel, where clergy members lay a hand on the head of each animal and say a prayer on its behalf. At Olvera Street in Los Angeles, The Blessing of the Animals has been a colorful tradition since 1930.
“Our plans include the blessing, but we also intend to have representatives from the Roane Animal Shelter with puppies, dogs, kittens and cats available for adoption [as well as] people from HABIT of Knoxville, who promote the important bond between people and animals, as well as other resources for animal lovers,” Pinner said.
“The service is a time of thanksgiving for unconditional love between animals and humans.”