'Joy in the Chaos.' At Trinity Church, Blessings for Furry Companions.

The Rev. Matt Welsch enjoys an extra moment with one of the pets he has blessed during the Blessing of the Animals at Trinity Church on Oct. 2. At left is the Rev. Michael Bird, the church vicar. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Oct. 04, 2022

“It’s going to be ok,” the Rev. Michael Bird reassured his Trinity Church congregants, some of whom were restlessly jumping and sniffing and making themselves heard from the pews. “Once we start with that in mind, everything will be fine.” 

Photos by Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

And so it was, as Ziggy and Ralphie and Venus and Shadow and many other pets, mostly dogs but also cats and a few kidsstuffed animals, were escorted down the sanctuary aisle to be blessed by one of three Trinity Wall Street clergy. It was the Blessing of the Animals on Oct. 2, an annual event in many churches that celebrates the Feast Day of St. Francis, the patron saint of animals, and a first for the Wall Street church since the Covid pandemic began. 

“May your lives be filled with joy and wonder and love, may you be a source of comfort and light to your family each and every day, and may God’s blessings be upon you,” the Reverends Matt Welsch, Sr. Promise Atelon, and Michael Bird recited, their hands lovingly placed on furry heads as human family members beamed.

“Many people have pandemic puppies that they love and adore,” said Bird, the vicar of Trinity. “We wanted to make sure that they knew that we are here to care for their animal companions.” 

Our connection to animals “runs deep,” Bird continued in a brief after-service interview. “It gets to the connection of all living things and certainly lifts up our need to be connected with one another and connected to nature.”

Jared Lilly, who had adopted his dog Marla during the pandemic, called the ritual “absolutely wonderful.” “I’ve been going through a rough time, too,” he said, “so it provides mental and emotional comfort, in addition to spiritual comfort.” 

Parishioner Elyse Richardson was there with her dog Toddy (“maybe a spaniel and something, but he’s a good mutt”). Especially because Toddy is a rescue, she said, it made her feel that he was “acknowledged, and welcomed into the community.”

“It’s nice,” she said, “to have this embrace of all of our pets, who are part of our families, too.”

So whats it like to be the blesser of so many animals? The Rev. Matt Welsch said that, like people, the pets all have their own personalities and quirks” and things that bring them comfort. “So,” he said, “it’s just a process of being flexible and finding joy in the chaos.