A reader sent me a question about being gluten-free and taking communion. It’s such an interesting topic, I decided to make a whole blog post about it. First, I’ll write what I do, then follow that up with a number of alternate ideas.
My church celebrates communion only once a month. We pass plates containing wafers — which are really oyster crackers — and mini-cups of grape juice. (Vineyards aren’t known for their formality, after all!!) I partake. Here are the things that led me to my decision:
- I pick one out that is broken. I literally pray as I do, “I believe; help my unbelief.” In other words, I so want to take the Body of Christ into mine, and I have faith that He’s not going to do me harm. But, at the same time, I don’t want to go foolishly ingesting a bunch of gluten. So, each time I take communion, I pray — right then — that the Father would protect me from its ill effects, or quickly heal any adverse reaction.
- I have read (though I can’t find it right now) that a healthy celiac’s body can typically weather a storm of 1/8 gram of gluten and not suffer ill effects. A whole saltine is roughly 3 grams. Imagine a saltine cut into 24 pieces. My broken piece of oyster cracker is likely not much larger than that. I figure that communion is one more reason for me to be 100% faithful to the gluten-free diet, so incidental exposure, like in communion, isn’t difficult on my body.
- Plus… once a month, tops, is not much exposure, even if it does do me harm! I sometimes miss communion anyways, due to taking care of my crying baby in the nursery, or I’m off in the children’s ministry leading worship, or I’m home that Sunday with a sick child… So, I probably only take communion twice every three months, at most.
By nature, I’m the sort who doesn’t like to raise a fuss over myself. If I were, I might insist on gluten-free communion wafers. Here in the U.S., the easiest brand to find is Ener-G, and they’re available from many online retailers. They’re about $8-9 for a pack of 50. Alternately, if I went to a smaller church, I would probably buy them myself for everyone to take.
(I’ve also been to two different Lutheran churches who — as their own standard — have g.f. communion wafers.)
I’ve also read that a number of other people take their own bit of wafer, g.f. bread, or just a piece of rice cake with them, and use that for the Eucharist — either serving themselves in their own seat, or giving it to the pastor/priest beforehand, or whatever fits in with the communion protocol of their particular church. (There are some ideas here.)
However, it just might not be something that you can work out with your priest/pastor. In other words s/he might be unable or unwilling to make an exception for your diet. In the mid-1990’s, the Vatican barred celiacs from serving as priests (really!) because according to the Catholic church, communion wafers must contain gluten. (Read more about celiac Catholicism here.)
If some apparently unworkable situation is the case with you, don’t let it stumble you. God the Father knows your heart. Pray about it, and I’m sure you can come to peace before Him regarding communion.
Posted on February 9, 2009, in Celiac Disease, Christian Living, Christianity, Encouragement, Giving searchers answers, gluten-free, Gluten-Free and Food Allergy Resources, God/Christianity/Church, Medical Stuff, Vineyard, Vineyard Phoenix, Worship. Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.