Welcoming Gluten-free Visitors to Communion

Dear churches that invite visitors to receive communion,

I have celiac disease and I visit a fair number of churches where I am not a member. I know that puts me in a very small set of people. But let me just say how much I appreciate those of you that explain in your service leaflets or through spoken announcements that you do offer gluten-free bread at the Lord’s table and tell me how to get it.

Usually this is just by telling the minister who is offering the bread that I need gluten-free. It is slightly awkward in that holy moment. But once the minister takes a moment to realize what I have said, they either get it from the altar or offer it to me it from part of their paten, plate, or ciborium where it is separated from the normal bread. I do appreciate that the fact that at my home church, the clergy know what I need and are ready with it. It is nice not t have to ask. But having to ask for it is not a big deal and is a much better option than the alternatives.

Churches don’t tell worshipers they have gluten-free bread and that serve communion only by intinction are a particular problem. If a church offers communion in both kinds, but without a gluten-free option, and I can by-pass the bread and go straight to the cup and drink from it, that is what I do. Theologically, communion in one kind, when necessary, is perfectly fine with me.

If communion in one kind isn’t really an option and I’m with someone, I’ll reverently take the bread, drink from the cup, and then hand off the bread to my companion to consume. Once when I wasn’t with anyone and attended an early morning service at a small-town Episcopal church, I carefully buried the bread in the consecrated church yard after the service. Again, theologically I know this is OK with me, and probably with the church.

But if the only option is intinction, then none of these options work, and I just don’t come to communion. I know from what you’ve said in your bulletin or in your verbal invitation to communion that this is not really what you want. But I’m shy and like to be inconspicuous, so unless I’m a regular visitor, I’m not going to tell you about this. Also, I’m not a big fan of coming up to receive a blessing when I would normally receive communion, so I’m just going to stay in my place.

Gluten-free communion bread is pretty cheap. You can even make your own. If you are okay with it, seeded crackers like Mary’s Gone Crackers are the best tasting and keep well. If you want to stick with something that looks like regular wheat wafers that is OK. So are the deglutenized wheat wafers that are made to satisfy Roman Catholic requirements for only wheat bread. Any of these gluten-free wafers might become like hard-tack over time, but most aren’t that great when it is fresh either. It is being able to take and eat that matters.

Homemade gluten-free wafers and Catholic-approved gluten-reduced ones.

If you like to use a common loaf, I think that is great. I’m a big fan of that. But don’t try to make a gluten-free one. It will probably crumble like crazy when you tear it. Just have some wafers on the side for those of us who need to pass on normal bread. You might consider consecrate a few every week and eat them if no one needs this special bread. Or maybe you’ll have preconsecrated bread reserved and at the ready. I won’t know the difference. It is just nice to be able to take you up on your invitation to join the feast, even though I need to keep a gluten-free diet.

Thanks for considering these recommendations.

Yours in Christ,

A gluten-free visitor

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