​Dean of Melbourne, the Very Revd Dr Andreas
Loewe, and the Revd Matt Campbell, Senior
Chaplain at Trinity Grammar School, Kew bless
animals at a special service on 10 October.

Photo: Kit Haselden


​Archbishop Philip Freier and the Dean of Melbourne, the Very Revd Dr Andreas Loewe, hosted one of their more unusual congregations at St Paul’s Cathedral on 10 October when the threat of inclement weather forced the first Blessing of the Animals service indoors.

The service, celebrating St Francis of Assisi, had been intended for Federation Square but Cathedral authorities opted for their wet-weather option with Melbourne’s spring weather at its most fickle as the 5.10pm starting time approached.

Timmy the Dorset cross sheep, Miss Chief the goat and six Labrador puppies, in training with Customs and Border Protection, had places of prominence as representatives of the animal kingdom and – in the tender care of their handlers – seemed unperturbed by their unfamiliar surroundings. Timmy and Miss Chief were brought to the service by Ms Pam Ahern, the founder of Edgar’s Mission animal sanctuary at Willowmavin, near Kilmore, while three Customs and Border Protection officers watched over the puppies in a pen near the Nave altar.

Associate Professor Liz Tudor, of the Faculty of Veterinary Science at Melbourne University, told the congregation said the first way humans could celebrate animals was “to marvel at the diversity and grandeur of animal life”.

Dr Tudor said the bond between people and animals existed at several levels, recounting a visit to the Zoo with her young grandchildren and their fascination with animals as diverse as seals and orang-utans. But she also said animals played vital roles in the livelihoods of humankind, in protecting and saving people from danger and in the stories human beings told.

In some parts of Africa, the wellbeing of a cow determined whether a family could afford for their children to attend school, Dr Tudor said, while in Arnhem Land, the story of two dogs who walked across northern Australia was an important part of Indigenous people’s connection with the land.

“There is a universality in the relationships of human beings and animals which transcends culture,” she said.

Miss Christie Roper, a Customs and Border Protection officer, said Labrador puppies were trained not only for duties at border posts but for police and quarantine work throughout Australia at Bulla, north of Melbourne. They were even used in the fight in Queensland against Fire Ants, a pest from South America.

Customs and Border Protection run a puppy foster care scheme under which people foster puppies for 12-18 months.

Archbishop Freier led the blessing of animals and people at the Cathedral, praying that the animals be granted health and protection and for blessings on the people who cared for them.

Dr Loewe, in his welcome, said: “As we ask God to bless His creation, we give voice to our trust that God who clothes the lilies and feeds the birds of the sky, who leads the lambs to pasture and the deer to water, who multiplied loaves and fishes and changed the water into wine, will also lead us, feed us, multiply and change us to reflect His glory, now and in the ages of ages.”

Music for the service included All Creatures of Our God and King and All Things Bright and Beautiful, with the organ postlude Camille Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony, which was used in Babe, the 1995 Australian film about a pig raised by sheepdogs.

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