TWO guinea pigs, 14 dogs and a Shetland pony made up what must have been one of the most unorthodox congregations in Gwent yesterday.

St Michael’s Church, Llanvihangel Crucorney, near Abergavenny, was the scene of the animal blessings service, where Sebastian, a rescued miniature Shetland pony at the Society for the Welfare of Horses and Ponies (SWHP) in St Maughans, Monmouthshire, processed to the altar to receive his blessing from Rev Derek Young.

Rev Young and his colleague, Rev Derek Lee, then went round the congregation, blessing creatures great and small from lurchers to guinea pigs, with rosemary and holy water.

Rev Young said: “It was a great day which went very well, though there were some quite big dogs.

“There were a few accidents but fortunately they were easy to clear up,” he laughed.

Of his new congregation, Rev Young said “they were behaved, no worse or better than usual.”

There was a serious side to the celebration, though, as the service was held on Animal Welfare Awareness Day, which aims to highlight the plight of abandoned and mistreated animals.

The church has run their animal blessings on this day since 2009 and Rev Young said it had become an important part of the church’s calendar, with the village keen to show its support, and many people coming who wouldn’t usually attend the church.

He said the church would be giving a donation to SWHP.