The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Blue-Haired Episcopal Priest to Bless Animals in Bushwick Park

By Meredith Hoffman | October 3, 2013 6:25am
 The Rev. Kerlin Richter plans to bless any animals people bring to Maria Hernandez Park Friday.
Blessing of Animals
View Full Caption

BUSHWICK — With her diamond cross necklace brushing the nose of a black lab and her blue fauxhawk shining in the sun, the Rev. Kerlin Richter praised the spirit of her dog, Sam, and wished him a future of "snuggles" and love.

The Episcopal priest then touched the dog's nose, as she'll do with dozens of creatures Friday in Maria Hernandez Park.

"I'll lay my hands on their heads and say, 'Blessed are you, wonderful dog, you give companionship, laughter and joy,'" said Richter of her plan for the Feast of St. Francis, when Roman Catholic and Anglican Communion leaders worldwide say special prayers for pets in the Blessing of the Animals.

"We'll be by the dog run," Richter said. "I'll be there with my bright blue mohawk, clerical collar, jeans and boots. You can't miss me."

She'll also have balloons.

Richter, 35, who founded the new LGBTQ-friendly, arts-focused Episcopal church Bushwick Abbey this summer, said the Blessing of the Animals ritual was open to all species of pets and to Christian and non-Christian owners alike.

Her congregation's musician Vince Anderson (whose band Rev. Vince Anderson and his Love Choir also plays weekly at the bar Union Pool) will also be at the ceremony, though he won't be performing so as not to overwhelm the park with "church music," Richter said.

"Theological talk can get wordy...But this is more than just saying we believe our relationships with animals are precious and holy," said Richter of the ritual. "We'll actually lay hands on them."

Richter — whose new church is fully funded by the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island and currently has monthly Sunday evening services in the Spanish-speaking Episcopal church Santa Cruz — said the congregation's traditional ties don't hinder its liberal, creative approach.

And Anderson, who's lived in Bushwick the past 11 years but always gone to Williamsburg for services, said Bushwick Abbey's philosophy clicked with him immediately.

"I saw a possibility of a church in my neighborhood that could provide both a spiritual community and artistic community," said Anderson, who despite the name of his band, is not an ordained priest.

Meanwhile Richter, who worked as an editor of counterculture magazine Hip Mama and lived in Portland, Ore., before going to school at Manhattan's General Theological Seminary, said she'd discovered her desire to be an Episcopal priest in her late 20s after getting married and having a son.

"I realized I was happiest when I talking about faith and spirituality," she said.

She then shifted her shirt to reveal her most recent half-finished tattoo, "Sursum Corda," from an Episcopal prayer.

"It's Latin for 'lift up your hearts.'"

The Blessing of the Animals is Friday from 4 — 6 p.m. at Maria Hernandez Park.