How would you feel if you saw a dog receive Holy Communion in your church?
Well that’s exactly what happened to churchgoers at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Toronto last month when St. Peter’s interim pastor, Rev. Marguerite Rea, invited Donald Keith into her church. The Reverend welcomed Keith after he had been harassed by police for sitting on the church steps with his dog, Trapper — an activity both enjoy. Because it was Keith’s first time attending St. Peter’s, Rev. Rea invited him up for communion. Naturally, Trapper walked up with him.
Keith rescued Trapper from death row after three previous owners gave up on the dog’s separation anxiety issues. The two are now a team and go everywhere together – even church!
The Toronto Star reports Keith as stating “The whole thing was all very innocent and the joy and happiness on the face of one old lady in the front row made it all worthwhile.”
Apparently there was one curmudgeon sitting in the pews that day. The church’s Bishop Patrick Yu, along with Rev. Rea, received a complaint from an unhappy parishioner who believes a dog receiving communion is against the rules. The man has since decided to leave the church as a result.
Bishop Yu is quoted as saying, “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.”
One witness, Peggy Needham, gave her own impression of Keith and Trapper strolling to the front of the church that day.
“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.”
She went on to say “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,” said Needham. “Anybody might have done that. It’s not like she’s trying to create a revolution.”
Rev. Rea has apologized and Bishop Yu stated “Unless there is any further evidence that she is giving communion to animals, the matter is closed … we are after all, in the forgiveness and repair business.”
So, what do you think? Is it okay for a dog (or other pet) to accompany their human to church, or receive communion? Didn’t God make all creatures — not just humans — to be loved and cared for?
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