On August 12, St. Stephen’s Anglican Church will once again host an interdenominational service that features the Blessing of the Animals.
It’s a custom that has roots in history dating back to the 13th century and the canonization of Saint Francis of Assisi, a Catholic friar, deacon and preacher who became associated with the patronage of animals and the natural world.
“It’s certainly not a new concept,” said Greg Robinson, a St. Stephen’s volunteer helping to organize the event.
“It’s an idea that’s been around for hundreds of years and dates back to a time when animals and agriculture were a much greater factor in everyday life.
For a community like ours where, agriculture is still very important, it’s a natural fit.”
As might be expected, of course, the animals brought to the outdoor service are predominately pets, and tend toward the expected dogs and cats, but some more exotic animals have also made an appearance in the past.
“We’ve had a llama, horses, a pet rat and even an ant farm. You really never know what animals will be brought to the service, and I suppose that’s part of the fun,” said Robinson.
The outdoor service will begin at 2 p.m. and will run, rain or shine. It will include music and prayers and each animal will receive a Personal Blessing and an Blessing Certificate.
And, although the animals tend to be pretty well-behaved (it is a church service, after all) owners are asked to bring animals in carriers or keep them on leashes.
The service is interdenominational and participating churches include Holy Trinity Anglican, Saanich Peninsula RC Parish (St. Elizabeth’s and Our Lady of Assumption), the Anglican Parish of Central Saanich (St. Mary’s and St. Stephen’s).
The collection for the day will be donated to the Pacific Animal Therapy Society (P.A.T.S.), an organization that utilizes volunteers and their pets to conduct visitations to community partners to bring a little joy to the lives of seniors, those in hospital and others.
St. Stephen’s is a natural location for an event rooted in history, given that it is a heritage site within the community. It is the oldest church in the Anglican Diocese of B.C. on its original site and in which service has been held continuously since 1862.
The church also has the distinction of having created a memorial garden for the cremated remains of family pets.
St. Stephen’s is located at 7921 St. Stephen Road, off Mt. Newton X Road.