Many of us have been there – after a celiac diagnosis, you do your best starting your brand new gluten-free lifestyle and suddenly you’re faced with something that you hadn’t thought about: having communion at church. It is particularly a shocker because now you have yet one more thing that is affected by your diagnosis. It can be a very frustrating — and even a lonely experience.
In the last few years many churches have become aware of the need to accommodate celiacs with gluten-free communion wafers. Churches usually come up with a process on how to handle the gluten-free communion to avoid cross contamination with the regular bread and figure out how the person will actually get the communion wafer. Wayzata Free Church in Plymouth, Minnesota was doing just that. This fall they added gluten-free bread as an option to communion. They passed bowls of bread through the congregation. The gluten-free bread was placed in baggies in the same bowl with the regular bread. But church organizers say they became increasingly concerned about this process — that members of the congregation may become confused about which bread to take, or that the bread would become contaminated.
So this month they made a big decision — to go entirely gluten-free with their communion bread.
“We want everyone to feel welcome and comfortable taking communion,” Lead Pastor Kevin Meyer told The Savvy Celiac. “Making the switch to gluten-free bread removes a potential health concern so everyone at Wayzata Free can focus on the reason we serve communion.”
The church does communion monthly and will start with gluten-free bread on January 2nd, 2011. They say it should only cost them about $20 extra per month to make this change. “Those who don’t have concerns with gluten, won’t notice a difference,” Pastor Meyer added.
Hopefully they pick a good bread for the communion experience!
Wayzata Free Church raises some good points with its reasoning to go all gluten-free. It is taking seriously the realities of cross contamination, plus church organizers wanted to make it all easier for those who need this option. My church, Grace Lutheran in Andover, also offers gluten-free wafers. I put the wafer in a Ziploc baggie before the service and we get a different wine chalice for her so she can have both. They have been very accommodating as well.
Living Without magazine wrote an article on this subject two years ago and explained that the Methodist Church, Evengelical Lutherans of America and the Episcopal Church, (and likely more, now that it’s almost 2011) all accept gluten-free bread or wafers as an option when you receive communion. I have found it difficult to find a comprehensive list online of churches that are currently accommodating to this request. So if you are wondering about your church you should go ask your worship coordinator or one of the pastors whether they have a gluten-free option, and if not, could they start offering it.
The other challenge lies specifically within the Catholic Church. Canon Law states it must have wheat in it in order to be considered the Body of Christ. Church officials answered this question directly back in 2004 on it’s website. Basically, your options are:
- Request wine only– in a second chalice with no cross contamination
- Ask about the Benedictine Sisters’ Catholic Church approved low-gluten wafers being offered at your church (but again– taking separate wine). According to the Benedictine Sisters’ website, “Our low gluten bread is made with wheat starch and water. The gluten content is 0.01%. It is made, stored, and shipped in a dedicated gluten-free environment.”
The decision which route to go is purely up to the person with a gluten-sensitivity or celiac disease and what your church is willing to provide.
Of course if you attend Wayzata Free Church in Plymouth, you won’t have to worry about any of this. But if you don’t, and you haven’t asked your church about your options for taking communion in a safe manner, be brave, be bold and make it happen, because options are out there for you — you may just need to ask the question.