Creatures great and small are to descend on Greyfriars Kirk this weekend – with pets and their owners invited to a special blessing for animals.
It is believed to be the first sermon for pets in Scotland.
During the service the menagerie of animals will be blessed and can join in with hymns before enjoying a “pet parade” in the grounds of the historic Kirk. The location is especially apt as Scotland’s most famous pooch, Greyfriars Bobby, is buried just inside the kirkyard gates.
Reverend Dr Richard Frazer, who will lead the service, said: “It will be very simple but an opportunity for people to remember how wonderful our animals are as companions and friends.
“Everyone is welcome – as long as no-one brings any dangerous animal along!”
Backed by the Skye Terrier Club, the service this Sunday coincides with the feast day of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.
The kirk itself stands on the site of a pre-Reformation Franciscan order of “Grey Friars” – who were devotees of St Francis, explained Greyfriar’s operations manager Steve Lister. He said he is expecting “chaos” and added: “It’s incredible what people keep as pet these days. We want to make the blessing a fun event for families and children.
“Hopefully the service will be light hearted and in a less forbidding format for children who will enjoy it – and we hope to attract young people to the church.
“And if it all goes well, it could become an annual event.”
One animal lover who is going along to the service is Moira Barras, 69, from South Queensferry. She is taking 11-year-old Skye Terrier, Kelly, who has played Greyfriars Bobby for a festival promo film.
She said: “We’re encouraging all kinds of people and animals to come along – we could have birds, a lama, goats – we won’t know until the day. Obviously, with the connection the kirkyard has to the story of Greyfriars Bobby, we are expecting to see quite a few Skye Terriers.
“It’s the first time I have heard of animal blessings here in Edinburgh, but it’s already a big thing in America.
“To a lot of people, their dogs are their children – I think it’s a great idea.”