Blessing of the Hounds

The relationship between the Greenspring Valley Hounds and St. John’s Church goes back a long way.

By the early 20th century, the farms that the parish had been established to serve had smaller populations and meager incomes. The hunt helped to attract new families and injected new life into the Valley community. In the 1920s, the annual Blessing of the Hounds was established, attracting great crowds of people, and putting St. John’s firmly back on the map.

Each year on Thanksgiving Day, we begin with a service in the church at 10 a.m. Afterwards, the clergy, choir, and congregation process across the road to the field where the horses, riders, and hounds are gathered.

Today, the Blessing of the Hounds reflects our more contemporary concerns. We pray our Thanksgiving Day prayers and ask God’s blessing not only on the hounds but also on the horses, riders, and foxes! But for many the highlight of the short ceremony is the choral benediction sung by the St John’s vocal quartet. With the Blessing completed, the horn is blown and the horses and hounds make a great spectacle racing from the field.

Many of the spectators remain to enjoy the Valley’s fall splendor. St. John’s plays host by providing refreshments together with tours of our historic church and graveyard. Many people also choose to make use of our beautiful campus as a location for picnics and tailgating.

This colorful tradition has now been a fixture of the Western Run Valley for almost a century. Whether you have lived your whole life in the Valley or are just visiting, St. John’s looks forward to welcoming you to this festive celebration of our past and present.

“O God, we your servants gather on Thanksgiving Day to ask your blessing on those who go a-hunting with horses and all hounds. We are grateful for the beauty of the open fields and the hospitality of their owners. Grant that all who delight in the Hunt may never fail to find satisfaction in simple pleasures. Bless, keep and protect your servants—horses, riders, hounds and foxes—with your grace. Increase in us true sportsmanship. Grant that, never failing to see your hand at work around us, we may give up ourselves to your service, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”