It was a Sunday church gathering like no other, with barks, yelps and a few quiet meows as the Buckhall United Methodist Church in Manassas celebrated the second annual Blessing of the Animals service in an outdoor ceremony.
About 40 people showed up with pets in tow to the service, which is celebrated in conjunction with the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, which falls on Oct. 4. The short ceremony is meant to mark the bond between people and the animals they keep as pets, as well as the part that animals play in today’s modern world, said Linda Monroe, church pastor.
“It’s a dignified way to recognize the important role that animals have in our lives,” Monroe said. The pets “are god’s creation and we are called to be their caretakers.”
“Plus, it’s just a lot of fun,” said Monroe, whose family includes two dogs and a cat.
Yvonne Bleistein, a dog groomer from Manassas and a church member, brought a herd of shelties to the blessing. Bleistein rushed from an engagement in Pennsylvania Sunday morning to be at the blessing in time.
“Dogs give us all so much,” she said. “This is a way that we can give back to our dogs, to give them a blessing.”
Pamela Holmes, of Manassas, brought her calico tabby, Shelby, to the ceremony. Last year her husband brought a tub full of koi fish, she said. “Our pets just give us so much,” she said.
William Best, of Manassas, brought their two dogs, Mixie, a German Shepard rescue and Janie, a red-coated hound dog. “We love our dogs, they are just part of the family,” he said.
The service included a table of candles where participants could light a candle for a pet who had passed away. And congregants quickly filled a tub full of donated pet food for the local animal shelter.
The church has a long history in Prince William County. The first written minutes that mention the Church at Buckhall are dated 1905, but the church was an active part of the community well before the original building was put up, according to the official history of the congregation. The main church building, which is located on Prince William Parkway and Moore Drive, dates back to about 1906.