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We currently serve both wine and grape juice, giving parishioners a choice.  But we also have several AA groups that use our facility during the week, and know that they have an open invitation to worship with us. There are a couple of members who have strong objection to switching to all grape juice, so it would also be a pastoral issue to switch.  Does the presence of wine in the communion tray offer too strong a temptation to a recovering alcoholic?


I believe thjat as long as you are serving both, you are providing the alternative. That person has to face those decisions on a biggger scale daily.
Ken Prol

Ken Prol on October 19, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

What do you propose as a solution? Alcoholics face this when they go out to eat, walk by or inside a store that sells alcohol, etc. They need love, compassion, and the encouragement of others in AA who undersatand the challenges. Talk top someone from the AA program and get their input as well.

Paul - What is their objection to switching to all grape juice? I'm trying to think of one, and drawing a blank. Going with all-juice seems like the best solution, but maybe that's just because it's what I'm used to from my own church.

Paul Beverly on October 26, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)


I think that part of the objection is cultural--a long background in the Roman Catholic church.  I was not an elder when those objections were voiced a few years ago.

Paul - I can imagine that this is a sensitive discussion in your congregation.  At the church I attend we have chosen to have only grape juice served.  This decision was made before I was attending there - and I can't be speak as to whether that decision was made because we have an AA group that meets in our building - or because alcoholism can exist in our pews - but I like to assume the decision was made so that the Lord's Supper was inclusive of as many people as possible.  I'm under the opinion that we should not create barriers for others to participate in the Lord's Supper - nor needless temptations.  We've recently changed our bread so that it's gluten free, again so that everyone can participate. This month there is an article in the Banner which adds some food for thought to this discussion.  

In general in life I prefer wine to grape juice and gluen rich bread to gluten free bread. When I first came to our church and found that we served only grape juice and gluten free bread for communion, I was glad to do it as an act of hospitality at the table. Now that I have been here for a little over two years, what began as hospitality has become an act of love and a sign of unity. I now prefer grape juice and gluten free bread at the Lord's Supper because of the wholehearted oneness the elements themselves represent. There is something powerful about sharing one cup and one loaf (rather than two of each) that trumps my prior preference. Should it ever surpise us that God uses the physical aspect of celebrating the sacraments to drive home the deeper truths?

Paul, I hope your council will listen closely to those who cling to wine, and I hope that group will be able to hear the voices of those who desire to eliminate physical barriers. No easy task!

Paul Beverly on October 26, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)


One of my fellow Elders, in response to some of the comments said that Communion should be one place where people are not forced to make a choice--that it is a table of grace where all are welcomed into the loving arms of Christ.  Your thoughts on the physical community formed by all partaking of the same type of elements, elements that remove barriers are very powerful.

I am glad that my fellow Elders are discussing this in such a compassionate way.

I don't think it's a black and white issue, or that any genuinely caring and loving person will automatically insist on having only grape juice at the Lord's Supper. There are certain contexts (e.g. an inner-city ministry) where the choice might be more obvious. But how does this choice, consciously or not, reflect how we view God's gifts in creation, and the biblical symbolism of the elements, and the meaning of the sacrament? I think we need more reflection and dialogue on that matter, without quick judgements levelled at those who disagree. Exclusive use of grape juice has the benefit of not being a temptation, and of not requiring a choice, and of being the same for all. On the other hand, there might be things we lose, biblically, liturgically, spiritually, theologically, and formation-wise, in the process. Consider a few reflections by thoughtful Christian pastors and writers. First from Frederick Buechner:

"Unfermented grape juice is a bland and pleasant drink, especially on a warm afternoon mixed half-and-half with ginger ale. But it is a ghastly symbol of the life blood of Jesus Christ, especially when served in individual antiseptic, thimble-sized glasses.
Wine is booze, which means it is dangerous and drunk-making. It makes the timid brave, and the reserved amorous. It loosens the tongue and breaks the ice, especially when served in a loving cup. It kills germs. As symbols go, it is a rather splendid one."

Second, from William Willimon, "Communion as a Culinary Art":

"Wafers and pellets that look more like fish food than bread of the world will not do. Grape juice with too much water and too little spirit will not do. What is more basic and symbolic than bread? What is more joyous and sad than wine? And yet, bread and wine, like all human creations, are ambiguous gifts. In a world where one-third of humanity is starving or close to starving, do we Americans need to be reminded of the demonic nature of selfish, egocentric gluttony? (Christians have an age-old answer for the sin of overconsumption, and it is called fasting.) And do we pastors, who so frequently encounter the human ravages of alcohol, need to be lectured on the evils of drink in a lonely and desecrated world?

Against my own abstaining Methodist forebears I would argue (and I think John Wesley would back me up on this) that wine is necessary at the Lord’s Supper not only because it is obviously related to the full range of biblical imagery of the “fruit of the vine” and the “spirit” but also because it is a symbol of humanity’s creative and demonic potential. We sometimes use God’s gifts in a way that makes them humanity’s curses. What is more blessed than fine wine at a good meal? What is more destructive than addiction and Dionysian submission to wine when it is used in inhumane, unredeemed ways? For the Christian, all foods are good and clean, not only because they are gifts of God but also because these ambiguous human creations have meaning only under the name and blessing of Christ." (

So, I think there are lots of issues swirling around under the surface that maybe we don't think about. I prefer to have both available, because of the rich symbolism of wine that just is not there or there to the same extent with the over-sweet breakfast drink: the antiseptic germ-killing, purifying nature of wine; the celebratory, banquet-evoking nature of wine; even the dangerousness, the non-safe nature of wine, and the amorous and social connotations that Buechner brings up, and which I think are definitely present in the biblical imagery of wine. There may also be a certain piety at play that looks at wine, consciously or slightly sub-consciously, as somewhat naughty or sinful. Add to that a de facto Zwinglianism that says "it's just a symbol so who cares?" Clearly there must always be an alternative for persons who cannot or choose not to drink alcoholic wine; hospitality and Christian charity make that abundantly clear and non-controversial. But even in that case, alcohol-free wine would be preferable in my book; I find grape juice sickeningly over-sweet and a less than satisfying substitute. But even discussing this in some quarters invites an attack on one's motives (which I know from personal experience), and that should not be the case. Hospitality also implies listening to different points of view.

In our congregation we only serve grape juice. I don't believe it matters what you serve. I believe in scripture that the only thing we have to focus on is the CUP. Jesus or even the apostle Paul never talked about what is being served in the cup. Jesus  took the CUP.  Paul says that after supper he took the CUP.     The symbolism and meaning is not in the wine or grape juice it is in the cup. This cup is a new covenant.    So whatever is served doesn't really matter.  says 

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