ANIMAL INSTINCTS: New monthly service exceeds hopes and expectations as church fills pews with paws.
An Anglican church in Beaconsfield, Que., has been filling its pews with paws.
Last Oct. 4, Christ Church Beaurepaire launched a pilot project called Paws and Pray, a monthly service for people with dogs. Organizers hope it will help people recognize the value of companion pets and stir debate on the role of animals in creation.
The first service was “wild,” not because the 40 Labradors, American bulldogs, spring spaniels, standard poodles and other dogs that came with their guardians misbehaved, said Johanne Tasse, an animal welfare advocate. Rather, the media stormed the tiny church to document a first in Canadian church history.
“It exceeded our hopes and expectations,” said the church’s rector, the Rev. Michael Johnson.
The service is shorter and is designed around “celebrating creation and celebrating…with all the animals,” he said. Contrary to reports, only the guardians are given communion. The dogs get water and treats, “but they [are]not on the altar with the bread and wine,” said Johnson.
When Tasse proposed the service, Johnson didn’t hesitate. “I always like to push boundaries a little bit.” He was also intrigued by the idea of “recognizing the value of our animal companions, both in terms of family bond and friendship, but also for the work that they do for us.” He cited seeing-eye dogs, and dogs that search for explosive devices in war-torn areas as examples.
A newcomer to Quebec, he said that Tasse made him realize that some of the worst cases of animal abuse, particularly around indiscriminate breeding, can be found in the province.
“I put all those factors together and it was a no brainer to say, ‘hey we should do this,”’ he said.
Tasse, who is president of the Companion Animal Adoption Centres of Quebec, said “people have to stop looking at companion pets as consumer products.” She added, “I’m sure God didn’t have it in his plan for us to use and abuse animals.”