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A Massachusetts congregation welcoming all animals, provided they are properly restrained, is celebrating its one-year anniversary.

The Rev. Thea Keith-Lucas of the Perfect Paws Ministry, which meets at Calvary Episcopal Church in Danvers, said the congregation had its roots in the annual "blessing of the animals" and is a way to celebrate both God and the bond between humans and their pets, The Boston Globe reported Monday. About 40-50 people attend the weekly services.

"I think that relationship can be a way people experience God's unconditional love, and they feel called to look beyond their needs and help another being, and that can help them grow spiritually," she said.

Some have criticized the church's practice of allowing animals.

"We go to church to worship God and raise our minds and hearts to God," said Sister Mary Bernadette of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Mission in Boston. "Now you put a kitty on my lap and I'm going to be very divided. God made the kitty, it is true, and as much as the animals can have a place in our life, when it comes to those moments where we are coming before God, humans can do that in a manner that animals can't."
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