SOME people are reluctant to go to church, but the idea of worshippers being taken to a service with a lead around their neck is a little extreme, however this is exactly what occurred at Egton Mortuary Church on Sunday (9 Oct).
The annual Egton pet service saw a variety of animals brought into the chapel to receive the blessing of Reverend Christine Haddon-Reece.
She said: “There’s actually been a tradition here for many years, so it isn’t something I started.
“It’s just a lovely, jolly service where the animals are welcomed.
“We try to encourage people to be sensible but we occasionally have rabbits, we had a hen, so a wide variety.
“In the past I have had ferrets, stick insects.
“How do you bless a jar of stick insects?”
This year’s service was also attended by a pony named Millie, although she was required to stay outside and just poke her head through the door.
The service coincides with the festival of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, and celebrates the bond between owner and pet.
Rev Haddon-Reece added: “We had a service with some readings and modern hymns to do with animals.
“Then I move around the church and ask God to bless the pets, having asked first of all that they are not going to bite me.
“I move around, blessing them and stroking them in God’s name and I remind people that all animals are our responsibility to look after, both wild and our pets.
“We give them shelter and food and they give us companionship and a lot more in return.”
Following the service a collection is passed around, with the proceeds being split between the church and the RSPCA.
Then comes the task of cleaning up, a task made simpler by the fact the pony remained outside, and aided by the easily-wiped-down old stone floors.