Pets are blessed too at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church

All God's creatures, including rats, are welcome at the annual blessing of pets at St. Mark's Episcopal Church. Here, the Rev. Fr. Michael Hiller blesses a young parishioner's rat. A key element of the service is keeping the terriers far away and up wind of the rats. Photo: Bruce Alexander

Twenty dogs, two cats, two rats and their assorted guardians came to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Berkeley on Sunday for a Blessing of Pets.

The traditional ceremony is held annually on the Sunday following the feast of St. Francis Assisi, a saint revered for his kindness to animals (and the homeless). This year, the event place took at 9:30 a.m. on the lawn in front of the church at 2300 Bancroft Way.

Following the blessing, the pets took a break and reconvened in church.

Tim Sullivan, a member of the church, said the blessing of pets is often a “howling good time” — with dogs matching notes with the organ. “One year, a pet rat showed up and drove the terriers crazy,” he said. The absence of terriers this year prevented that particular problem.

One of only two cats at the service receives a blessing via the laying on of hands outside St. Mark's Episcopal Church at Bancroft and Ellsworth on Sunday October 9. Photo: Bruce Alexander

As well as tending to the animals in its congregation, St. Mark’s runs a host of programs in the city to help people in need. It feeds the homeless once a month (in cooperation with other churches who host meals on other days), brings meals to the city youth shelter’s YEAH! program, houses a suitcase clinic run by Berkeley students, and the church’s parishioners visit a convalescent home once a month. For more information, visit the church’s website.

Rusty, a golden retriever, rests in church during the service that followed his blessing, as his guardian, Kathy Yam, looks on. Photo: Tim Sullivan
Many parishioners bring their pets to church for a blessing. Photo: Bruce Alexander
Tracey Taylor is co-founder and managing editor at Berkeleyside. Email: