All Creatures Great and Small Songs of Praise


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All Creatures Great and Small

Aled Jones goes to the zoo to discover why the animal kingdom fascinates us and introduces hymns and songs in celebration of creation.


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RHINO GRUNTS

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Someone's hungry.

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This is Emma and she's just one of the stars of the programme,

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cos today it's all about the animals.

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I know what you're thinking. It's going to be ZOOper!

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So, this week we celebrate all creatures great and small...

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..visit a school where the children share the playground with alpacas...

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and meet the dog who is more than man's best friend.

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Zoos are a great way of introducing children to animals

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from all over the world.

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And here at Chester Zoo, over 400 species fight for your attention.

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Some are cheeky.

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Some bigger...

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..and some...

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scarier.

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And zoos like Chester play an important role in conservation

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and ensuring generations to come will still be able

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to marvel at the animals.

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This is Liza. She's a sitatunga, a form of antelope.

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Now, our music today celebrates creatures great and small,

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and our first hymn was written by St Francis of Assisi,

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who's the patron saint of all lovely animals.

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I wake up in the morning and I hear the sound of the gibbons

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alongside the morning chorus of the birds.

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In the afternoon and evening,

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you can hear the lions roar from some way away.

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So it's a fascinating place to live nearby.

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Local resident David Clough is Professor of Theological Ethics at the University of Chester,

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and takes a keen interest in the plight of animals.

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I think zoos can be very important places,

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and Chester has done a lot in relation to animal welfare

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and they work on preservation of endangered species here

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and they contribute to conservation projects around the world, too.

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One way of thinking about zoos in Christian terms would be to think about the story of Noah's Ark.

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There's a sense in which zoos are playing a role in preserving

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whole diversity of species, just as God charged Noah with

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in the story of the flood.

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Some would say we're the number one species.

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Why do we need the animals that aren't useful to us?

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Well, if Christians believe that God had a reason to create them,

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then Christians should be attentive to what God is doing in relation to other animals in the world

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and try to participate in that, and not be just attentive to human interests,

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but look much more widely.

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It's usually the saints that have some dealing with the animals.

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There's some magnificent stories that I think indicate

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that Christians have thought concern and harmony with the animal kingdom

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is very close to holiness and saintliness.

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One of my favourites is the story of St Kevin,

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and the story goes that he held up his hands in prayer

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and while he was praying, a little bird came and made its nest and laid eggs on top of his hand.

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And St Kevin was so concerned to be attentive to the welfare of that bird

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that he kept his hand out until all the birds had fledged

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and had flown away.

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I think if we have a strong sense that God has willed

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this magnificently diverse creation,

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then these partial encounters we can have with animals,

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even in the context of a zoo, can remind us of the magnificence

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of God's grace to human beings and to the whole of creation.

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# For the beauty of the Earth

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# For the beauty of the skies

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# For the love which from our birth

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# Of and around us lies

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# Of and around us lies

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# Lord of all, to thee we raise

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# This, our joyful hymn of praise

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-# For the joy of human life

-# For the joy of life

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# Brother, sister, parent, child

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-# Brother, sister and child

-# Friends on Earth

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-# Friends on Earth

-# And friends above

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# Friends above

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-# For gentle thoughts and mild

-# For gentle

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-# For gentle thoughts and mild

-# Thoughts and mild

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-# Lord of all, to thee we raise

-# Lord of all, we raise

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-# This, our joyful hymn of praise

-# Our joyful hymn of praise

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# For each perfect gift of thine

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# To our race so freely given

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-# Graces human and divine

-# Graces human and divine

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-# Flow'rs and buds of Earth

-# A-ah

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# Flow'rs and buds of Earth

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# Lord of all, to thee we raise

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-# This, our joyful hymn of praise

-# This, our joyful hymn of praise

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-# This, our joyful hymn of praise

-# Our hymn of praise. #

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It's all very well school children going to the zoo,

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but you wouldn't really expect animals to go to school...would you?

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Cardinal Wiseman Catholic School in Coventry has its very own farm,

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and it was the brainwave of teacher Sean O'Donovan.

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Well, the idea is really to get the kids out of the classroom

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and be caring for animals.

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We run an agriculture course and an animal care course.

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And it suits some kids. Really suits them well.

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We're a city school, so really this helps a lot, having animals here.

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Many kids, before we got the pigs, didn't know what a pig looked like,

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how big it was, what it smelt like and so on.

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-But it's not really a petting farm, is it?

-No.

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And that's very important. There are certain animals here that have pet names

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and then the animals which are going to go in the food chain, they don't.

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And that's a very important distinction I think that schools need to make.

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-How long have you been on the course?

-Two months.

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-Are you enjoying it?

-Yeah, it's good.

-Great.

-What's the best bit about it?

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Um, working with the animals.

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Yeah, taking care of them, seeing all the different things we've got.

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Working with animals in a farm is just amazing for me.

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-It's great having all the animals in the school, isn't it?

-Yes.

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What's your favourite animal?

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-Alpaca.

-Why do you like that so much?

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-They're just really cool.

-Are they?

-Yeah.

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What do you hope they learn

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from the getting in and getting dirty aspect of it?

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Well, I want them to enjoy it.

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These are exam classes that they do, so they do that as well.

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But they learn this responsibility - they learn caring for people.

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That transmits then to caring for other humans,

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and that all goes back to our faith as a Christian,

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caring for other people.

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-It's the best part of my week.

-Really?

-Yeah.

-Why do you love it?

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I just like to be outdoors. This course is just brilliant.

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Rather than sitting in the classroom just getting told what to do,

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you're outdoors, being practical.

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-Being around the animals is great.

-Should more schools copy yours?

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Yeah, definitely.

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It teaches a lot of the students about sustainability

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and how to do your own thing.

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This is a faith school. How does it fit in with that aspect of things?

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It is, and I think that's an important part of the whole setup.

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We have the idea of the Good Shepherd here -

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I think in St John's Gospel where he said, "I'm the Good Shepherd",

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and I think that's an important point,

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particularly with having the sheep and animals,

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and if you can get kids to care for animals,

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then they'll go on to care for people.

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Well, we all know the expression that a dog is a man's best friend.

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Look at these painted dogs fast asleep.

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But there are some dogs who go above and beyond the call of duty.

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She is very uplifting.

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Just her spirit, she is full of life.

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And a good distraction from what might be misery otherwise.

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She definitely takes your mind off the negative side of everything.

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She is full of energy and, you know,

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you can't stop to think about your woes, really.

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At the beginning of last year, Tony and Sandra's son Conrad

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was on a tour of duty in Afghanistan serving in the Parachute Regiment.

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They fought nearly every day, which I think is incredible.

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Lots of the guys do lots of fighting out there,

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but I think that checkpoint came under particular...

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you know, difficult circumstances.

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But they faced it bravely.

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Just last February, Conrad's patrol came under fire.

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He became the 353rd British soldier to die in Afghanistan.

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It's really difficult.

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The way we've tried to deal with it is to carry on

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as we thought he would have liked us to carry on,

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and carry on as he went on with life.

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We said the other day that he keeps us forever off our knees

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because you do just want to fall on your knees and give up.

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He'd written in letters how he had got this dog at the checkpoint,

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and how they were all looking after her -

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how he was feeding her and teaching her to sit and give paw and stuff.

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So, after he died, we thought about the dog

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because we'd been given an instruction at Christmas

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that he would like to bring the dog home.

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So, we thought that was our job.

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But the odds of getting Peg home safely were extremely low.

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She's at the most dangerous checkpoint in Helmand Province.

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We have to get her, bring her back, she has to make that journey,

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she has to be well, not diseased,

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and then she's got to fly back and do six months in quarantine.

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It is just incredible.

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And she's handled that as if it was a walk in the park.

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And at each point, somebody has helped. Somebody has helped.

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She's a great comfort, and it's almost spiritual, having her about.

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How precious is she?

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She is very precious.

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-Yeah.

-Yes.

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She's our link to his time in Afghanistan,

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and, you know, by virtue of that, a link back to him.

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A reminder of him, yes.

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But a lovely reminder of him.

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Yeah, definitely the same spirit -

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always on the go, looking for the next adventure.

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She'd patrol with them,

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she'd lie down when he lay down, she'd get up when they got up.

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I think she gave all the soldiers a real boost.

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And when you're out doing that job,

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and facing the enemy, and engaging the enemy,

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to get back and have something that is a reminder of home,

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and takes away that very unnatural environment,

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it has got to be really comforting.

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The other thing is, we know she gave Conrad and the guys a lot of comfort.

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# Whispers in a dream

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# The world is quiet and waiting

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# And all around the air is still

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# And sings the angels

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# When all is come to pass

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# The storm has breathed its last

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# And the rain

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# Has washed our fears away

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# Love will find

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# Whispers in the wind

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# The clouds part to let the light in

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# And all around the air is still

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# Then sings the angels

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# When all is come to pass

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# The storm has breathed its last

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# And the rain

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# Has washed our fears away

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# Love will fall

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# On us all

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# And we can smile

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# Again. #

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There are lots of references to animals in the Bible.

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The Wise Men travelled on camels, and a humble donkey was good enough

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to carry the Son of God into Jerusalem.

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We still recognise their importance today

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as more and more churches catch on to the idea of pet services.

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The teachings of St Francis of Assisi,

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friend and protector of all animals,

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are recalled at a Noah's Ark service.

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The services first became popular back in the 1940s

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and have hardly changed over the years.

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It's all about worshipping God,

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primarily through the animals.

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It's a time when we can come

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and bring our pets, and say thank you to God

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for what we cherish in them, how they enrich our lives,

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and their loyalty as well.

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Who's this?

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We get various animals at our pet services, from dogs and cats,

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rats, rabbits,

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budgerigars...

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Oh, and hens. For the last couple of years, a lady has brought hens.

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We've never had any fights in the church.

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One or two strong minded dogs bark a lot sometimes when they come in,

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but they soon settle down.

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All creation is God made, and this is part of my faith.

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I look after God's creatures,

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and they bounce around!

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I believe that I have been given guardianship of my animals

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I have to look after them to the best of my ability.

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It's important to come and give thanks

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for having my pets and remember the ones that I have lost as well.

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Irwin's a canine partner.

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Every day with Irwin, I feel blessed by him.

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So, I suppose this is like a little bit of payback for Irwin,

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that he comes today and he gets his blessing.

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I would like to think that all prayers are answered.

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And, in the Bible,

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Jesus told us to have concern, even for the smallest of creatures.

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I think, probably, the pets do get something from it

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in that the thanks that their owners give,

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and the fact that we've taken them to God in prayer.

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Loving God, you are a remarkable God,

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whose graciousness knows no limits.

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Not only have you created the great Earth,

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but also you are to every living creature, their kind and loving God.

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Let us rejoice in the goodness of God,

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shown in the beauty of our animal companions.

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And the blessing of God Almighty the creator and the Redeemer,

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be upon you and upon all animals today and always.

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Amen.

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Well, I have thoroughly enjoyed my day out at Chester Zoo.

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Our final hymn is a celebration of all of God's creation -

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that's me and my new little friends here.

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Until next time, goodbye.

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Next week, inspiring hymns from the land of my birth

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as some of the finest male voice choirs in Wales

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sing classic Welsh hymns that will stir your soul.

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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