It has often been said that a church is always open to all-comers, but one church in Toronto, Canada, was a little too open for the likes of one of its parishioners. St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Toronto recently welcomed a newcomer to its fold, and the newcomer brought their dog along with them. In an attempt to make both the newcomer, and the dog, feel welcome – Rev. Marguerite Rea allowed both of them to take communion, even placing a wafer on the dog’s tongue.
However, the actions of the ‘interim’ priest have caused controversy, with one parishioner even filing a complaint with Toronto’s Anglican Diocese, and with the reverend herself. The parishioner believed that by allowing the dog to ‘take communion’ in such a manner was an affront to the Anglican Church’s rules and regulations.
The parishioner has also left the church following his complaint.
Bishop Patrick Yu, the bishop responsible for the church, stated that he wrote to the parishioner after receiving the complaint letter:
“I wrote back to the parishioner that it is not the policy of the Anglican Church to give communion to animals.
“I can see why people would be offended. It is a strange and shocking thing, and I have never heard of it happening before.”
“I think the reverend was overcome by what I consider a misguided gesture of welcoming.”
Rev. Marguerite Rea, despite being asked to comment by the media in Canada, has so far refused to make any statement. Yu added:
“She is quite embarrassed by it.”
Peggy Needham, one of the congregants of the church and the deputy people’s warden, defended the reverend. She commented how the man had been invited into the church following an incident where he had been hassled by police outside of the church. When he attended, he brought his dog with him. When the time came for the congregation to take communion, the man went up with everyone else – bringing his dog along too.
“I am sure for Marguerite that was a surprise, like it was for all of us,” said Needham. “But nobody felt like it was a big deal, because it wasn’t a big deal.”
Needham adds that the revered offered the dog the wafer as he looked like he could use one, wagging his tongue and looking straight at her.
“I think it was this natural reaction: here’s this dog, and he’s just looking up, and she’s giving the wafers to people and she just gave one to him. Anybody might have done that. It’s not like she’s trying to create a revolution.”
Needham finished by commenting on how the church holds a pets service every year, which is why the presence of a dog at communion didn’t offend anyone, or cause a stir – except for one parishioner of course.
“In his email, the man’s argument was that Christ wouldn’t have liked it. But in my opinion, Christ would have thought it was neat. It was just being human. And it made everyone smile.”
What do you think about a dog receiving communion?
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