A Larne church became something of a Noah's Ark on Sunday October 4 with a colourful collection of God's creatures out in force for a unique Blessing of the Animals Service.
The event also marked World Animal Day, St Francis of Assisi Day and the start of Guide Dogs for the Blind Week.
All Saints' Church, Craigyhill opened its doors to pets and their owners, thankfully without The Flood but crowned with a beautiful sunny rainbow. Local animal lovers and amazing creatures of all shapes and sizes filled the church to capacity for this first ever parish Blessing of the Animals Service.
Following in the footsteps of the BBC’s 'Vicar of Dibley – Animal' episode, the local version saw a host of pets take part in this special event displaying their diverse feathers, fur and even scales in all their glory.
Cats and dogs, some sporting an array of bling, sat cheek by jowl with mice, hamsters and rabbits in colourful carrot motif collars. Stick insects hitched rides on people's shoulders and there were cages filled with everything from a gecko to several budgies and even a degu (a sort of chinchilla) named Pablo.
Thistle the donkey proved as popular as ever and came in to join the service too.
And with singing dogs especially welcome it was no surprise that many did join in with the hymns – All Things Bright and Beautiful and Make Me a Channel of Your Peace, based on the Prayer of St Francis. There was even a python snake taking the collection!
One special animal guest with an unusual life story was Keepa the Japanese Akita. His owners Jim and Geraldine McCurdy revealed: “Keepa is rather special because he actually grew up with Lilly the Barbary Lion cub in Belfast Zoo. Now he lives with us and has been such a blessing in our home that we wanted him to come along to the service and be blessed too.”
God created a kaleidoscope of fabulous creatures with whom we share our planet and many are now much-loved working animals, pets and companions in our homes. The service gave thanks and praise for them and special guests the Rev Anne Tolland (Cairncastle Presbyterian Church) and Sister Anna Hainey (Drumalis) asked God's continued blessing upon them.
The Rev Roger Thompson (rector of the Parish of Kilwaughter with All Saints', Craigyhill, said: “It was truly a roaring success! There was a veritable Noah's Ark in the church and the lion lay down with the lamb. We were delighted to see so many animal lovers and their pets and thankfully they all behaved in a saintly fashion.”
In keeping with the theme of the service, half of the £250 collection was donated to Guide Dogs for the Blind.