Four legs and two

30 August 2013

WHEN the English National Sheepdog Trials arrived in the Exeter diocese, to be held on the Castle Hill Estate, in Filleigh, the Vicar, the Revd Jane Willis, and her Methodist colleague, the Revd Mark Noakes, decided to move the Sunday morning service from St Paul's to the Estate.

Mrs Willis says that Lady Arran, who "was there with her dogs, offered the use of the West Wing, and, together with Farming Community Network we were delighted to welcome about 80 worshippers of all ages - four legs and two". It was a simple service, she says, celebrating shepherds and their dogs, and it drew together the regular church members with the sheepdog triallists and others from across the country who had come to the event.

It was led by Mrs Willis with Mr Noakes; for she tells me that St Paul's is a "very happy informal Anglican/Methodist collaboration". The preacher was the Revd David Ursell, himself a Devon sheep-farmer, whose "amusing and insightful sermon included the fact that sheep prefer a smiling face". The hymns were accompanied by accordion and violin, played by triallists from Northumberland.

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