REALLY Holy Communion: No Gluten, No Alcohol, No Risk


I attended a clergy meeting recently (something I hadn’t done in a long, long time). It’s not that I don’t like other clergy folks. It’s just that my schedule for the past twenty years has not allowed it.

Being good Wesleyans (I’m a member of a little known sect called United Methodists), we celebrated Holy Communion together. This is a wonderful sacrament that John Wesley (the great pioneer of our denomination) urged us to celebrate every time we meet. Not a bad idea when you understand its deep meaning.

Being of the Wesleyan strain, we use grape juice instead of wine. Apparently this stems back to eighteenth century England. I’m told at that time, alcoholism ran rampant. Wesley (or someone) decided to avoid the possibility of some alcoholic convert falling off the wagon. So for the past 225 years or so, we’ve been drinking Welches to celebrate the Last Supper.

We take a lot of abuse for this practice as DSC_0650you can imagine. When Jesus turned water into wine at Cana, he made the good stuff (see John 2:7-10). So when we use the non-fermented version, many people think we’re turning our backs on Scriptural Christianity. Regardless of your view on this, I still love you.

At the clergy meeting, I encountered a new wrinkle. Since I’ve been out of the proverbial loop for some time, I don’t know how long this has been going on.

The meeting took place in a very large room. To be efficient as is often the practice, the elements (bread and wine grape juice) were offered on both sides of the room. But lo and behold, on this day there were three lines instead of two.

Front and center in the meeting room, there was a line with gluten free bread. Hence, the new wrinkle.DSC_0450

This took me quite by surprise. And while I totally get the concept, I had really mixed feelings about it. I began to imagine six or seven different lines enabling us to avoid other possible maladies contained in the bread and…whatever.

As I went forward to participate in the Lord’s Supper, I observed the proceedings. It was with keen interest I noticed the gluten free line (what there was of it).

Out of a crowd of maybe 100 clergy folks, I saw two go through that line. No problem, I guess, but I heard one of the two say later, “I went to that line so the servers in the center wouldn’t feel left out.”

I must say, I have no real opinion on this matter one way or the other. It’s a nice gesture, but how much gluten are we going to get from a tiny piece of bread? I really don’t know. If it’s that much of a problem, let’s use grape juice and gluten free bread for everyone.

As for me and my house, we’ve decided to use chardonnay and focaccia from now on.


2 thoughts on “REALLY Holy Communion: No Gluten, No Alcohol, No Risk”

  1. you admitted you weren’t educated about the gluten thing so I forgive and love you too. Those of us with Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disease, cannot have gluten without dire consequences. I have had to forego “the body” due to this. If I ingest gluten then it takes 30-60 days for my body to recover and my system to work correctly again. I admire the step they took to allow people like me to partake of the sacraments.

    1. Wow! Thanks for filling us in on that fact, Pamela. That’s great practical knowledge for us (particularly us pastors) to know. I guess that takes me to my statement about all of us going gluten free. I appreciate your willingness to take the time to educate us. I had never as much as heard about Celiac Disease. Have you ever approached your pastor about a gluten free substitute?

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