But the cat must stay outside

Picture a family preparing to leave home for a Sunday service at Pilgrim Congregational Church in North Weymouth, Mass. Mom and Dad have their coats on and are practically out the door when it occurs to Dad to go back inside for ... Fido. Yes, their pet terrier. You see, he's welcome to tag along and hear the Rev. Rachel Bickford preach her sermon. So are the pugs, Lhasa apsos, dachshunds, and other pooches that live with her parishioners – at least so long as they're leashed. Pit bulls, too? Sure, now that the church has paid to increase its insurance cover. Ms. Bickford said the idea for the "Woof and Worship" services came to her one day as she read from Psalms 98: "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth.... the world, and they that dwell therein." At the time, she said, "My dogs were at my feet, and I thought, 'This would be a wonderful opportunity for everyone to get together.' " As for the potential din if the four-legged critters should howl along with the hymns or maybe scratch at fleas, the pastor isn't worried. "We're all good people and we know our dogs," she told reporters, "so I trust them." Just in case, though, the pet-friendly services are held at night, after most presumably have eaten dinner and are less inclined to be frisky. And how have they been received by her flock? Kathleen Dolaher, for one, is delighted. She attends with not one, but both of her canines. "It makes me happy, and it makes them better socialized," she said.

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