By Michelle Baker | Photos courtesy of Emmanuel Episcopal Church

In Virginia’s horse country, often times a person’s dedicated four-legged friends are just as (or more) special than their human ones. That unique bond is celebrated at the annual Blessing of the Animals hosted by Emmanuel Episcopal Church at the National Sporting Library & Museum at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 6.

The service and blessings are ecumenical. People of all faiths are welcome to attend and bring their beloved animals for an outdoor program and blessings. While many churches offer animal blessings, the partnership between the National Sporting Library & Museum and the local faith communities of the Middleburg area makes this annual event a unique
ecumenical event.

“Like St. Francis, whose day we celebrate, we welcome ‘all creatures great and small’—working animals and house pets, livestock and reptiles, horses, hounds and foxes, birds and fish, and everything in between,” said the Rev. Gene LeCouteur, Rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, organizer of the event.

This ecumenical and interfaith blessing will celebrate humankind’s relationship with working and companion animals. All well behaved pets, livestock, rescue animals, working animals, stuffed animals, and mementos are welcome to attend the blessing with their two-legged companions. Animals must be on a leash, lead, bridle, or in a carrier and be up-to-date on tests and vaccinations. If it is too difficult for your animal to attend? You can carry a collar, halter, or photo.

Clergy from faith communities across the area will offer universal readings that reflect the value of animal life, then move through the “congregation” to each animal, offering individual blessings for a long and happy life. The afternoon also features an animal expo, with several tables for local organizations focused on animal well-being to share information and raise awareness. To sign up as a faith leader for the blessing, contact the Rev. LeCouteur at 540-687-6297 or by email rector@emmanuelmiddleburg.org.

Parking is free. Call ahead to the NSLM if you plan on bringing a trailer. For more info. or to volunteer, contact info@nationalsporting.org or 540-687-6542 #4. For other inquiries, contact Valerie Peacock, Clarice and Robert H. Smith Educator, 540-687-6542 # 25; vpeacock@nationalsporting.org. The National Sporting Library & Museum is located at 102 the Plains Road,
Middleburg. ML

This article first appeared in the September issue of Middleburg Life.