From THE STAR (Toronto):

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.

COMMENT: In my opinion this was a healing on the Sabbath situation, a teaching of Jesus that the, somewhat, pharisaical complainant doesn't appear to understand. Anyway, surely even the dogs get to eat the scraps under the table.

For putting dogs before dogma, the irreverent,
Reverend Marguerite Rea is our...




  1. Izzie has never been given a wafer, but she has lapped up spilled communion wine after the service. In churches where dogs are welcome, and come up to the communiton rail with their human, I give the dog a blessing in the name of St. Francis.

  2. And so, should I not have given laying on of hands and anointing regularly to a dog whose work was to visit those in the nursing homes? Linus is such a well behaved Shelty, too and now has graduated to hospital visitations, with a badge and everything. I’m with Strangelove…

  3. When Roberto and I were little tykes, about 8 or 9, we were skinny dipping in the creek/river and somehow got around to baptizing all of the pets that had accompanied us to frolic and cool off.

    WV = ebully
    Self explanitory.

  4. South of the Border
    I’m retired now,but made a regular practice of communicating the animals (as I believe we are animal, not plant), though some people may be questionable. Three diocesans had no problem with that practice–and on St. Francis’ Feast Day – we consecrated homemade dog biscuits and the “animals” let the people have one each. I have a dog God-son too.

  5. I loved the story! Recently we had a disturbance at our church because dogs somehow became unwelcome. A policy was written but not sent out and explained. When an elderly retired priest came to our church with his companion, an elderly, very well behaved dachshund, our Jr Warden (also fondly known as Jr. Hitler) met him in the parking lot and told him his dog was not welcome. He left.

    After some prodding, he has received an invitation back and the sweet dachshund stays in the priest’s office until they leave. I think most people miss the dog.

  6. Ormonde, LOL!

    MP, I think your COMMENT sums it up beautifully: a healing-on-the-Sabbath type of situation. I personally feel much better knowing that, via our worldwide Anglican connections, I am now in communion with the canine community. Go, Rev Marguerite! (Also, Mother Amelia and Lois Keen and Patricia and Dahveed. . . .)

  7. we were skinny dipping in the creek/river and somehow got around to baptizing all of the pets that had accompanied us to frolic and cool off.

    Dah-veed – what a very bucolic scene. Do you find frolicking pets tend to accompany you everywhere? …

  8. Mad Priest, you’re absolutely right, Dah-veed would look completely at home surrounded by fauns, nymphs and artful arrangements of classical drapery.

  9. Ummm…I think I’ve missed something here.

    Since when did people take dogs to church? It’s not something I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

    I’ve had dog companions in my lifetime – two beagles, two terrier mixes, one Peke, one Pomeranian (not all at the same time) – and it would never occur to me to take any of these dogs to church.

    But we already knew I was weird anyway.

  10. Tracie – I haven’t seen dogs in church all that often but very recently it was my privilege to sit in a pew behind the most gorgeous copper-coloured King Charles spaniel, which instantly made friends with me and let me pet him pretty much all through the service. Its owner explained that she was deaf and so was allowed to bring him into church with her. If a dog is quiet and well-behaved*, why not??

    * same rule for children, in my book.

  11. We had lots of pets back in the day and they sort of roamed in a pack. This pack followed Roberto and I everywhere we went, all throughout the summer. And being little kids we did not always have to help with the farming, we were allowed to be children and roam ourselves to play and just generally have fun.

    This pack of animals was some dogs, goats, a burrito, a few ducks, etc. We had some bunnies, but they were free spirits who did their own thing, as long as it was not getting into my mother’s kitchen garden. We also had cats, but they considered themselves too good to be seen with the likes of all the rest of us. And going to the river would definitely not have been high on their list of things to do for a good time.