St. Mary of the Hills of Blowing Rock will celebrate the Feast of Francis of Assisi Oct. 6 in the front yard area of the church with a Blessing of the Animals service at 1 p.m. This annual tradition has been a part of the St. Mary’s Episcopal church for many years now.

The Blessing of the Animals is held on the Feast Day of Saint Francis to celebrate and honor all of God’s creations. Rev. Andrew Hege, the rector at St. Mary of the Hills, explained that this service is to “give thanks to God for animals and to honor them for their love and companionship.” He continued to say that this is just one of the ways the church honors all creations.

Saint Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Animals, was born in 1182. He inspired many to value all animals and creatures that are God’s creation. It is that same inspiration today that guides people of all faiths to come together to participate in the Blessing of the Animals.

According to the organization of the Episcopal Church, the service includes “pet blessings, prayers for environmental protection and conservation, and a call to a lifestyle based in simplicity and service of others.” Hege, who is new to the Boone area, is expecting a large outcome not only from church members, but also community members.

“This is an informal service that begins with scripture about animals and their role in creation that will follow with a prayer and an opportunity to go around and offer a blessing to each owner and animal by name,” said Hege.

Although this is a Christian-oriented service, Hege invites all people to attend because everyone is welcomed. Any pet is also welcomed as long as they are properly caged or leashed.

Saint Francis is celebrated every Oct. 4, and this has been a tradition to “honor his example of how he chose to care for animals and nature,” Hege mentioned. Galatians 6:15-18 reads, “For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! As for those who will follow this rule — peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” Saint Francis found God in nature, and his example is important for people to remember and there is a continuous call for the people to do that.

When asked what kind of impact this has on the individual, Hege answered, “I hope people know that this is a place where they are welcomed, where we seek to honor God’s creation to show love and to honor various aspects of our lives. For more information, call (828)-295-7323 or visit their website at stmaryofthehills.org.

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