Is the reverend barking mad?
IT'S not very often that a church is filled with the sounds of barking and meowing.
But St Andrew's Anglican Church in Lismore was filled with animals of all shapes and sizes yesterday for the special Blessing of the Pets service.
Lismore mum Vicki Muddiman and her kids, Jack Maguren, eight, and Emilie Maguren, six, brought their dog, Amber, along to the church to be blessed.
"I'd seen it in the church newsletter and Reverend (Alan) Shaw urged us to bring Amber along," Ms Muddiman said.
"We thought we'd brave it ... she's pretty excited to be here.
"Amber's an old dog, she's 13 years old now.
"She's had a few close calls recently, so we thought she needed a bit of a blessing.
"We were going to bring the cat as well, because she's recovering from a paralysis tick."
Reverend Alan Shaw said the Blessing of the Pets was a "celebration of the natural world and the joy that companion animals bring to our lives".
"The tradition of blessing pets originated from the work of a wealthy 13th century aristocrat, Francis of Assisi, who found a special relationship with God through birds and animals.
"He gave up his privileged lifestyle to establish an order of monks known as the Franciscans, devoted to preserving the environment and treating animals with dignity.
"The Blessing of the Pets is a great way to celebrate our love for companion animals in a relaxed church setting."
Although all pets were welcomed, Rev Shaw set some house rules.
Dogs and their owners were sent to one side of the church, with cats on the other side.
Owners of birds, rats, mice and other "crawling things" were asked to contain their pets in cages or boxes.
Cane toads were relegated to "wait in the car".
Rev Shaw was expecting an alpaca to turn up, but it hadn't arrived when The Northern Star visited. It is hoped Blessing of the Pets service will become an annual event.