What are churches doing to address gluten intolerance when serving bread for Lord's Supper?

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I have been approached by a parishioner who asked if I as parish nurse could look into the possibility of an alternative to  exclusively serving bread made with gluten at communion. I would love to hear from other parish nurses, disability advocates, and church administrations for ideas on how to tackle this concern.  

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Admin

My church has gluten-free elements available. Usually we have communion by people coming forward in the three aisles. As part of the instructions for how communion will proceed, the pastor always mentions that "gluten-free elements are available at this station (pointing). Just indicate that to the serving elder and they will be offered to you". When someone wants gluten-free elements, the elder just puts down the bread and picks up the plate. There are several people in the congregation that need gluten-free elements and, even if there weren't, it's nice to do for guests.

When we do a 'communion circle' at the front of church, it's not quite as easy as the elder with gluten free elements needs to walk around a bit and see who needs them. But it works.

We don't have communion seated in pews...but perhaps another church has experience serving gluten-free elements with that method?

We've tried having all the bread gluten-free, but had trouble finding the right one. Periodically, we experiment again.

Hope this helps. I'm curious to hear how many other churches have gluten-free elements, and the logistics of how they offer them in a way that's as seamless as possible.

Participant

We have just started offering a gluten-free option. In fact, one of our members needs gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free, so she suggested a Plentil chip. It doesn't look like bread, but gives those who are GF an option. We have had up to 5 people choose this option. And it makes it so that anyone can participate.

We also go forward to take communion, and have the GF station on one side. All of the congregation goes forward in the center aisle, and back to their seats in the side aisle. The server on the GF side holds 2 plates, one of bread and one of Plentils. We also put it in the instructions given verbally and also on the screen.

(Please walk forward to receive the Lord’s Supper using the center aisle and returning to your seat down the side aisle..  We will begin at the front.  The elder station on the drum side will have a gluten free option available.  If you are unable to walk to the table, please signal the server, the bread and cup will be served to you.)

So far this seems to work, but we have only tried it for a couple of months.

Community Builder

We offer a gluten-free plate.  We come forward for communion, so it's been very easy to make this available.  Each time it's mentioned that there is a one station where gluten-free bread is available. The elders will use that plate for those persons.  The two breads are kept very separate for the needs of those with extreme allergies.

Maybe we should use individually packaged "Life Savers" for communion. At least the name is appropriate.

Community Builder

We offer a gluten free option on the same plate with the bread. We have the bread around in a ring around the outside, and a kind of "donut-hole" spot for the gluten free rice cracker in the centre. We keep them separate with a little paper cup.

Our church does almost the same as Tim's, where people come forward and there is a note in the worship order, "Gluten-free elements are available at the far left station (second elder)." It is not always announced in addition.

We also sometimes do circles, in which case any person can let the serving Elder know, and another Elder is nearby with the gluten-free bread.

We have a separate plate and dipping bowl for the gluten-free elements, and it's distinct enough that our preparers always know which serving pieces are for gluten-free, but similar enough in color and material that the difference isn't very noticable to participants and observers.

As a pastor we faced this a few years ago in our body.  But instead of just targetting gluten free, we targetted every allergy (our body has a high rate of food allergies) So our bread is gluten free, soy free, dairy free, nut free, though it may contain egg.  That was the one piece we couldnt get rid of.  We buy from a local bread shop in town, but trader Joes also has sometihng that meets this.  We serve everyone from the same loaf and though it has a different taste and texture than normal bread, it has been a great opprotunity for us to talk about sacrificing for one another as the body of christ.  Remember that gluten isn't the only allergy out there and we need to incorporate as many people as possible.

 

I know one church puts GF bread in saran wrap in the middle of the communion tray and it's noted in the bulletin as such.  Our church just recently started putting in the bulletin that if anyone needs GF bread, they should go to the council room before the service for it.  (I'm not sure how visitor friendly that is, but it certainly is a good start.)

 

In case you haven't considered it, some folks with gluten issues are extremely sensitive.  To the point that unless, the people preparing the elements, wash everything thoroughly between cutting the bread and never allow someone to touch the bread and the GF bread, then it may be harmful to those with issues.  

 

Our goal is not to just say, we provided it for you.  But to provide it in a way that shows Christian love, care, concern and even defernence to the needs of others so that we are all truly one body.  To isolate people to a council room says, you are not part of the broader body, we need to segregate you.  I would challenge each church to truly think through the issues involved and not simply limit their elements to GF or not, but to take the full range of allergies into account and try their best to serve all God's people from the one loaf.

 

 

Participant

Hi, Liz, from your old pastor!
Well, we are experimenting with all gluten free bread next Sunday. I tried a sample from the local bakery. It won't win any flavor awards, that's for sure! I've been told the cost is significantly higher as well (not that cost is the most important factor). So we will be looking at the responses to this post for good ideas! It's not only a health issue, but an inclusion issue, a spiritual issue, and maybe a good opportunity for the congregation to reflect on what communion, in the true sense of the word, really means.

We have some gluten-free wafers available, with the sorts of bulletin notes that others have mentioned. But, as others have mentioned, this is an imperfect solution (because of the proximity to gluten and the fact that there are other allergies).

Here is an additional reason to use an allergy-free bread, rather than just providing a gluten-free option: "Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of one loaf" (1 Cor 10:17). Now, using different kinds of bread (or multiple loaves, for that matter), doesn't make the sacrament invalid. But it always distracts and obscures the "thing signified" for me when I see that we are not all eating the same thing. I do not like it at all. But we haven't yet found a great alternative.

This thread has prompted me to look into this again. My wife is, for the second time, on an extremely strict elimination diet (for reasons related to breast-feeding infants). Although she can have gluten (this time), she cannot have eggs, dairy (or any beef products), soy (or similar legumes), or a few other things that are unlikely to be in bread products. We know the difficulties of making bread without these allergens. But surely there is a way.

Please experiment and report back with "successful" products or recipes! I shall do the same.

On Sunday we're going to do a test run with a simple home-made hypo-allergenic bread: free of gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, and nuts. If all goes well, I'll post the recipe.

If you happen to see this before the weekend, I wonder if you could include in your test whether this bread recipe holds up to "dipping"? Our usual practice is to have congregants here dip their bread into the cup of wine, and we've found even some "regular" breads disintigrate almost immediately. Thanks in advance for considering my question!

Here's the recipe: www.epcrc.com/bread

It should hold up very well to dipping.

We also celebrate communion around the table in the front of the sanctuary. I was aware of at least one individual at church who was on a restricted diet. So, at the begining of the year I started searching local markets looking for gluetin free options to offer during communion and also for daily dietary meals during the week. I ended up at a local Whole Foods store where I purchased a bag of frozen dinner rolls, small dish of frozen brownies, pasta and sauce. I brought the groceries to their home for them to enjoy as a family dinner. Even eating a dinner at resteraunts can become a dificult task when you are seeking gluetin free options. The feedback I received was positive for all of the products and said the products also didn't contain the soy, nut or other allergy ingredients. We now offer the gluetin free dinner rolls along with a loaf of bread during communion. The best part is there are about 10 rolls to a bag. This way you can serve the amount you feel is needed beacause they are frozen. Just defrost and serve as a small loaf or slice into pieces. Although I agree it would be nice to have one loaf for communion, I have not been able to locate a similar product in the form of a loaf which was not presliced into sandwhich bread. I am including the link here for Whole Foods Special Diets web page as a reference for home or church. http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/healthy-eating/special-diets It provides useful information worth passing along. Unfortunately I do not remember the brand name of the dinner rolls, but I will find out for you if your interested.

Are there any legalities to be concerned about when parishioners/members bake communion bread for the whole congregation?

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