Londonderry church blesses pets
LONDONDERRY — During her years living in New York City, Elizabeth Purcell often brought her pets to church for a blessing.
Now living in Derry, she said she even brought her furry friends to the famous St. Paul’s Cathedral once or twice.
Since moving to New Hampshire, Purcell said, she hasn’t had the chance to extend her faith to her fuzzy family members nearly as often.
So when she heard that Londonderry Presbyterian Church was hosting a public blessing of the pets earlier this month, she knew right away she and her tuxedo cat, Zoe, would be in attendance along with her sister, Pat Purcell, and Persian cat friend Octavia.
Zoe, who was dressed in a blue harness for the occasion, didn’t appear enthused, letting out a loud hiss of protest before retreating inside her carrier. That was perfectly fine, said Rev. Sara Singleton, a part-time pastor at the Pillsbury Road church.
“Today, all those meows and barks are considered prayers,” Singleton told the crowd of local pet-lovers gathered on church grounds.
Church officials opted to host the pet-blessing service, the first of its kind, outdoors in the yard behind the Naylor House, a church-owned building used for storage.
Surrounded by trees, the dogs and cats had plenty of room to roam during the half-hour service, with human and animal voices lifting up in song.
“God doesn’t live inside a building,” Singleton said. “And this outdoor spot is truly a sanctuary of God.”
The main purpose of the pet blessing, Singleton added, was to “ask God to give a sense of well-being and happiness to those we love.”
The singing of animal-appropriate hymns such as “All Things Bright and Beautiful” and “This is My Father’s World” further set the stage for some one-on-one blessings.
Singleton gently laid her hands on the head of each dog and cat, offering a simple prayer on behalf of every creature present.
She encouraged the makeshift congregation to do as their pets do and “pray” with their eyes wide open.
“I find that’s the best way to pray,” Singleton said. “That way, you can look at one another with love.”
Members of Londonderry Boy Scout Troop 426, along with church officials, made sure there were plenty of pet treats to go around, as well as bottled waters and hot coffee for human congregants. A complimentary pet portrait photo shoot rounded out the morning’s festivities.