PASTORS are surely used to looking out into the congregation and being met by the pensive stares of worshippers soaking up their service.
But for one priest that view will be very different this weekend – as churchgoers bring their pets to hear his message.
Cats, dogs and ‘all other animals’ will be prayed for at the Blessing of the Animals service at St George's Church, Waterlooville, on Saturday.
The ceremony is expected to last about 30 minutes and harks back to a tradition started eight centuries ago.
Parish priest, Father Colin Lawlor, said: ‘In blessing our pets we are participating in a practice started by Francis of Assisi 800 years ago.
‘Francis introduced the idea that human beings are only one of the myriad of creations in God’s universe that are blessed.
‘Animals have always been part of human communities.
‘They delight us, entertain us and teach us about faithfulness, friendship, love, and forgiveness.
‘They bring laughter, joy, comfort and companionship. They are gifts from God.’
All pets are welcome at the service as long as they are caged or on a lead and they behave well with other animals and people.
Otherwise, visitors are invite to bring a picture of their pet or a stuffed animal to be blessed in their stead.
The service on Saturday will begin at 11am.