Gluten Free in Church

Well, I don’t personally attend church, but I have wondered how GF devout folks handle the Communion issue, since Communion wafers are not gluten-free. It seems at least one church is changing to adapt to a more diverse congregation.

Via Chron:

Christians with celiac’s rejoice: More churches adopt gluten-free communion

For thousands of years, Christians have remembered their Savior through the sacrament of communion, taking in his blood and body through consecrated wine and bread.

But now that celiac disease and gluten intolerance is increasingly common, bread has become a bad word, at least for the one in 133 Americans who can’t eat wheat.

People with celiac disease can find gluten-free options at grocery stores and restaurants, as the gluten-free industry grows to accommodate their dietary restrictions, but when it comes time to break bread at church, it’s not as easy.

Starting this Sunday, Palmer Episcopal Church in Houston will offer gluten-free wafers, eliciting hardy amens from the parishioners who were unable to take communion without getting sick.

“It’s just a way of including folks, and I think that was Jesus’ intention, to open his table,” said the Rev. James Nutter, the church’s rector.

Those taking communion may request the gluten-free wafers and a separate chalice of wine, both kept apart from regular wafers to keep from contaminating them with dust. Even very small amounts of gluten can have health effects and prompt an autoimmune response.

While Jesus instructed his followers to consume bread and wine, “I don’t think the presence of Jesus is confined by the content of wheat,” in the bread, Nutter said.

Ecclesia Church in Montrose uses homemade bread in its sacrament, and church bakers have volunteered to also make a loaf with gluten-free flour to accommodate food allergies in their congregation.

“I don’t think the presence of Jesus is confined by the content of wheat,”

The United Methodist Church of The Woodlands is one of a handful of other local bodies who make gluten-free communion available.

When it comes to the Catholic Church, though, officiants must comply with stricter rules over the Blessed Sacrament as a way to preserve church tradition and follow the instructions given by Christ during the last supper.

For the matter used in the sacrament to be valid, bread must be only wheat flour and water, not a rice cake or any other form, and wine must be fermented, not grape juice, explained Msgr. Frank Rossi, pastor of St. Michael Church in Houston and Vicar General for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

“Obviously there is some tension and pastoral concerns when someone is a celiac and cannot break down wheat or is an alcoholic or has an allergy to wine,” he said.

Since 2003, the Catholic Church has made available low-gluten hosts, which have a very minimal amount of gluten (0.035 millionths of an ounce), as well as mustum, a form of wine that is in a suspended state of fermentation and doesn’t yet taste alcoholic.

Sister Jeanne Crowe wrote about the decade-long process to develop a suitable communion option for most Catholics with celiac’s in an issue of Gluten Free Living.

“For a long time, the inability to receive communion hosts, which are made primarily from wheat and water, was a major frustration for Catholics who follow a gluten-free diet,” she wrote.

Communion is a central practice for Christians and a hard one to skip, even for health reasons.

As more people continue to bring concerns over communion to their pastors, more churches will be adopting, “This is my (gluten-free) body, broken for you.”


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