WASHINGTON - John Minnis knelt down next to Bosco, a 7-year-old, 140-pound Leonberger, resting his hand on the dog’s neck.

“Bosco may you be blessed in the name of the divine creator of all life,” Minnis prayed as Bosco licked his face. “May you and your family enjoy a long and healthy life together and find joy and comfort and unconditional love in each other. Amen.”

Bosco was one of the countless pets the members of the First Congregational Church of Washington prayed for at an interfaith animal blessing Sunday afternoon at Shelter Rock Preserve. Members blessed dogs, cats, a horse and even a chicken.

“God doesn’t need us to bless the animals, but it reminds us God is the creator of all of us and they are as important as we are, “Reverend Cheryl Anderson said. “Blessing the animals is a physical reminder that we are called by God to bless and be a blessing to all of creation.”

The church has held animal blessings on and off for the past 10 years in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, who was known for his kindness to animals and would have celebrated his birthday last week. But, usually only church members attended, so Anderson decided to hold one outside this year.

“We figured if we brought it down to Steep Rock we could open it up to the whole community,” she said.

The church offered snacks to attendees — biscuits for the dogs, carrots for the horses, corn for the chickens, and doughnuts, coffee and cider for the humans. Owners could also enter a raffle for a free portrait of their pet, photographed by parishioners Karen and Jim Esslinger.

Washington resident Virginia Reynolds does not attend the church, but heard about the event through her friend Anderson. She brought Henley, her 4-year-old English Springer Spaniel, for a blessing.

“[Henley] is such an incredible gift and I’m very grateful for the blessing he is in our life,” she said.

Parishioner Patricia Sears also brought her dog, a Maltese-terrier mix, named Lily.

“I believe in blessings for everyone, including dogs,” Sears said. “There are not enough blessings given.”

Anderson modified a St. Francis prayer to say over the animals.

“I made it less Christian so it would be interfaith, so that no one felt excluded,” she said.

The church is involved interfaith activities in the community, frequently working with the Greater Washington Coalition for Jewish Life. It will also host an interfaith Pre-Thanksgiving service, which is held in different places of worship across the region each year.

Helen Hughes was one of the church members who blessed the animals. She doesn’t have pets today, but when her four sons were growing up they had a wide variety of animals from a St. Bernard to white mice to a boa constrictor. She said she has a love and appreciation for animals.

“[Humans] are just a member of the animal kingdom,” she said. “People think we’re better than the four legged-creatures, but we’re the only ones who kill each other.”