If you go down to church this Sunday (October 1), be prepared for a surprise. 

Along with the singing there will be barking, maybe a little squawking and squeaking, and even some slithering when the Parish of Badshot Lea and Hale holds a pet service at each of its three churches.

Pets of all shapes and sizes will be welcomed to St John’s, Hale, at 9.30am, St George’s, Badshot Lea, at 10am and St Mark’s, Upper Hale, at 11am for a service to celebrate our pets and ask for God’s blessing on them.

Anyone who doesn’t want to bring their pet but still wants to celebrate them and have them blessed is encouraged to bring a photo of the pet. Children are welcome to bring toy pets and come dressed as animals too.

Revd Stella Wiseman, a priest in the parish, said: “We decided to hold the service on the first Sunday of October as it is close to the feast day of St Francis of Assisi which is on October 4.

"St Francis was known for his love of and care for animals and is often depicted with them.

"Our pets bring us great joy and are part of God’s creation so we want to celebrate them and give thanks for everything they give us.

"For many people having a pet is an enormous comfort and can help our mental health by reducing stress and anxiety. They can also be great companions especially to people who are on their own.

“We expect the services to be chaotic and great fun, so please come along! However, there will also be an earlier communion service at St George’s at 9am for people who prefer their worship without animal accompaniment!”

To join in the fun, come to any of the three churches on Sunday, October 1.