Horse baptised for church funds in South Africa

A South African preacher baptised a thoroughbred racehorse called "Running Reverend" in front of his congregation in a controversial bid to raise church funds.

Members of St. Peter's Congregational Church watched as Reverend Deric Derbyshire splashed the horse's forehead with water at the Villa Felix stud farm outside the southeastern coast city of Port Elizabeth.

"I did a scripture reading and a prayer and then sprinkled the horse's forehead," Derbyshire told AFP.

"The Lord's hand is definitively on this horse -- he's going to be a champion," he added.

Running Reverend will now be raffled for 200 rands (32 dollars, 25 euros) a ticket to raise funds for church buildings and an old age home.

The raffle winner will earn a 49 percent stake in the horse, to be co-owned by the Eastern Cape racehorse breeders who donated the animal, Derbyshire said.

All prize money will be shared.

It was not the first time Derbyshire, 56, and his congregation had become involved in thoroughbred racehorses, the Sunday Times newspaper reported.

In 1983, when the church needed a hall, Derbyshire bought a racehorse called "Sheldon" at a yearling sale and raffled him off, making enough money to complete the building.

But the baptising of a horse has landed him in hot water with the more conservative elements of his church.

"I'm not worried about that," Derbyshire said. "It's between me and the Lord."