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Communion for dogs? Why not?

An Anglican priest in Canada who drew criticism for feeding a communion wafer to a dog has apologized.

Donald Keith, 56, and Trapper, his German shepherd-Rhodesian ridgeback mix, frequented a park outside St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Toronto, and would sit on its steps as part of their daily routine.

Last month, Rev. Marguerite Rea welcomed both inside and gave them both a wafer during communion — an act of kindness that, as can happen when it comes to religion, created a furor. One parishioner filed a formal complaint with Anglican Bishop Patrick Yu, leading Rea to apologize this week.

“If I have hurt, upset or embarrassed anyone, I apologize,” Rea said on Sunday. “It was a simple church act of reaching out.”

Keith, a 56-year-old truck driver, got Trapper three years ago from a shelter, where, after three previous owners declared him unmanageable, he was likely going to be euthanized, according to the Toronto Star.

Every day, the two sit on the front steps of St. Peter’s for “reflection and spiritual renewal,” Keith told the newspaper. In late June, police urged the two to move off the spot, and Keith stepped inside the church to complain. Rea, the interim minister, invited Keith and Trapper to attend church.

When offered communion, Keith accepted. Trapper only sniffed the wine, but gobbled up the wafer.

Bishop Yu called the act a “misguided gesture of welcoming.”

But Rea says she’s received support through phone calls, visits and emails. The congregant who complained has since left the church, and others have no problem with the minister’s gesture.

“We’re all God’s creatures,” said one of them, Suzette Mafuna. “If a dog goes into a church, he’s entitled to every service that’s offered, including spiritual nourishment.”

(Photo: By Colin McConnell/Toronto Star)

Comments

Comment from Anne’n'Spencer
Time July 29, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Hmm. As an Episcopalian (or Anglican if you will), my first thought was that dogs don’t actually need Communion. They are perfect and without sin just as they are. Then I began to reflect on the priest involved. I suspect she had seen Keith and Trapper outside the church before. Intuition may have told her that they needed quiet and privacy for their daily visits. Something good and appropriate was going on because Keith felt free to contact her when he felt hassled by the police. I’d say she was simply offering hospitality, which is her duty both as a priest and as a Christian. In spite of the quibbling parishioner, this sounds like a good parish to me, and I expect the people there will continue to make Keith and Trapper feel welcome in whatever ways seem appropriate. Good for them.

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