The Rev. Amy Freeze has only one rule for her church's first Blessing of the Animals today: No slithering animals.
While Blessing of the Animals is not part of the Methodist tradition, Freeze said, she wanted to try it at Broad Street United Methodist in Mooresville. Freeze was named pastor there last year.
Blessing of the Animals usually is held in the fall on a day honoring St. Francis of Assisi, who was known for his love of animals. Freeze said Broad Street church already has a fall festival, so they're holding Blessing of the Animals in the spring instead.
The service will be under a picnic shelter on the church grounds. Congregants and community members are invited to bring their pets.
Freeze plans to read a few Bible verses about God's creation and lead a group prayer for animals, focusing on animals that have been harmed by oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico after a rig exploded in April.
She also will pray for the relationships between animals and their caretakers.
"We'll thank God for giving us the animals and for creation and for the animals' friends, their owners and companions," she said. "We'll pray they have the wisdom to take care of the animals as God takes care of us."
God commands people to be good stewards of creation, including taking care of animals and treating them rightly, Freeze said.
After the prayer, each caretaker will bring his or her pet forward, and Freeze will say a blessing over them.
It's important that the blessing include the name of each animal and its caretaker, Freeze said. She'll ask for a blessing on their life together and that they experience joy in companionship.
Freeze said she's averse only to mice and snakes, and she hopes all animals brought for a blessing will have four legs.
The Blessing of the Animals will be followed by a family festival, which will include face painting, games, lemonade, popcorn and snow cones.
The church's middle school students have prepared ribbons and awards for animals, including "best collar" and "best trick."
Freeze said the Blessing of the Animals could become an annual event at the church.
"I think it's a nice time for people to get out, and people want to be out with their animals and their kids," she said.
The community is invited to the Blessing of the Animals 5-7 p.m. today at Broad Street United Methodist Church, 355 S. Broad St., Mooresville. For information, visit www.bsumcmooresville.org.