PICTURE GALLERY: Animals take over Blythburgh church

Horses, a chicken, a hamster, a guinea pig, a ferret and countless dogs joined the congregation at Holy Trinity Church, Blythburgh, near Southwold today for the annual service of Blessing the Animals.

The service, which began in the late 1970s, was the inspiration for one of the most popular episodes of the BBC comedy Vicar of Dibley, written by Walberswick resident Richard Curtis.

About 100 people with their pets attended the service led by the Rev Malcolm Doney, a keen horseman who lives in Blythburgh and is a part time member of the Sole Bay Ministry.

At the end of the service, Mr Doney mounted his horse Neville, who had waited patiently at the rear of the church with two other horses, to give the final blessing.

Earlier, Mr Doney told the congregation: 'Animals give us an enormous amount – far beyond any function they might have as guardians, egg layers, hot water bottles, or even food.

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'When I am riding round the fields with Neville, when I urge him into a canter up the hill, I'm often amazed at the willingness, the patience of this powerful animal to allow someone as clumsy as me to sit on his back and respond to my bidding.

'And I can see by the fact that you have brought all these precious burdens here this morning that you recognise how much your animals mean to you.

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It is a privilege for us to be able to hold this service each year, to give you this chance to express your gratitude.'

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