A church in New Malden extended its welcome further than usual last weekend as it held its first ever 'dog-friendly' service.

St James Church on Bodley Road in New Malden welcomed Arlo, Zebedee and their owners into the congregation last Sunday (October 6) for what parishioners said was a first in the building's long history.

The move came courtesy of Vicar Katie Thomas.

She pointed out that dogs had occasionally attended services in recent weeks and last Sunday was an opportune moment to welcome them into the church's family properly.

"From time to time I have been asked if it’s all right to bring a dog to a service and many churches don't allow this but for some of our parishioners their dog is an important member of their family; for some it’s their best friend.

"We aim to be a fully inclusive church on many levels so I thought why not?

"We now have dog biscuits and water as well as coffee and cake after the service and everyone is enjoying their presence," Ms Thomas said.

Your Local Guardian: Image: Roger KellyImage: Roger Kelly

The New Malden vicar added that having the dogs present during the service was "a delight" and that they happily adjusted to the quiet and gentle atmosphere of the Sunday service.

"I don't have a dog myself but they are all well behaved and a delight to have in the service — it reminds my daughter of Noah's Ark!" She said.

Churchgoer Roger Kelly agreed, pointing out how well behaved the dogs had been on their visit to church.

"One of the parishioners has a dog that comes occasionally and really it seemed clear that a dog can be a vital part of the family group so we thought we'd try it.

"It's tranquil with the dogs there. I think there might of been concern about how the dogs were going to be during a service but it was fine and really added something to the occasion.

"The dogs had a wonderful time. They were pretty comfortable and hopefully we can help make them feel more welcome in the future," he said.