Dog eats God Scandal!
St. Peter’s Anglican Church, in downtown Toronto, has long been known as an open and inclusive place. So open, it seems, they won’t turn anyone away. Not even a dog. That’s how a blessed canine ended up receiving communion from interim priest Rev. Marguerite Rea during a morning service the last Sunday in June.
According to those in attendance it was a spontaneous gesture, one intended to make both the dog and its owner – a first timer at the church — feel welcomed. But at least one parishioner saw the act as an affront to the rules and regulations of the Anglican Church. He filed a complaint with the reverend and with the Anglican Diocese of Toronto about the incident – and has since left the church.
“I wrote back to the parishioner that it is not the policy of the Anglican Church to give communion to animals,” said Bishop Patrick Yu, the area bishop of York-Scarborough responsible for St. Peter’s, who received the complaint in early July. “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.”
But congregants of the church say the act wasn’t meant to be controversial. It was the first time the man and his dog had been in church. He had been invited to the service after an incident where police heckled him as he sat peacefully on the steps of the church early one morning during the G20 weekend. Angry over the experience, he called the church to vent. They invited him to come to church, and he did, bringing his dog with him.
When it was time for communion, the man went up to receive the bread and the wine, with the dog. “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.”
Rev. Rea instinctively leaned over and placed a wafer on the dog’s wagging tongue.
“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 Peggy Needham, the deputy people’s warden. “Anybody might have done that. It’s not like she’s trying to create a revolution. 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.”
Bishop Yu said when he spoke to Rev. Rea, she apologized for what she had done and said she would not do it again.