All things bright and beautiful


Jonathan Meyer, the rector of Winchelsea Church, had a plan – and it involved tripe. Small bits of tripe, all hidden in a cassock pocket to keep his congregation happy as around thirty dogs, two guinea pigs, and a parrot called Bella joined their owners for the first ever pet service at St Thomas’ on Sunday, May 21.

Rev’d Meyer explained: “It’s been something people have always asked me to do, I really had no idea how it would turn out. It’s a service to recognise the wonders of creation, and to celebrate & give thanks for all the animals and pets in our lives.”  That included his dog Pip who made the front page of the Order of Service. “This may be a first for here, but the tradition of holding pet blessings goes back to St Francis of Assisi in the thirteenth century. It’s a special way of marking the bond we have with our animals,” he said.

Animals and owners at the Winchelsea Church pet service

He picked the perfect day for the outdoor service, with swifts flying around the church under blue skies. A semi-circle of chairs was laid out by the main door and an electric organ on hand to lead the singing of hymns including “All Things Bright and Beautiful” and “Morning Has Broken”.

Ted the terrier and owner David McLoughlin, with Rev Jonathan Meyer

The tripe treats came in handy as the animals were individually blessed, each animal in rapt attention as the rector delivered his blessing. Heather Godwin from Pett Level brought Bella, Clemmie, Peta and Finn, her four rescued schnautzers, to the service and hopes for a similar event at another local church. “I really hope we can do something similar near me. It’s been an excellent service. I’m so glad special mention was made about the rescue dogs,” she said.

You can find out more about her work saving dogs from puppy farming at

Bella the parrot

The star of the show was Bella the beautiful blue parrot who posed for photos perched on a gravestone and flapped her wings when any of the dogs became too interested. “She’s a bit of a diva and loves all the attention,” says owner Barry, down from London and spending time on his boat in Rye. And how do you follow such a charming, friendly, and very Winchelsea service? Tea and cakes inside the church for everyone, including the animals, and a chance to admire the brilliant Flower Festival displays, which rival the Chelsea Flower Show for creativity, imagination…and a bit of eccentricity.

Order of service


Image Credits: James Stewart , James Stewart Rye News .

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