Communion for Celiacs
October 7, 2018 1:59 PM   Subscribe

I have celiac disease. This has made taking Eucharist (in Episcopal, Methodist, Lutheran, and UCC churches, usually) very difficult. Do any celiacs, clergy, or others have ideas for a kit I can bring to churches to make communion safe for me?

I am very sensitive to cross-contact, so the gluten-free host cannot have any contact with the gluten-containing host. This includes crumbs from being on the same tray, or gluten residue from touching the fingertips of someone (such as the priest) who has just touched gluten.

I also cannot drink from the wine (or grape juice) if others who have consumed gluten have drunk from it, or if gluten-containing host has been dipped in it.

I feel very sad about not being able to reliably participate in communion, and I also feel alienated and sad when the ritual itself is disrupted in the moment by my need to request special accommodations.

What are some steps I could take to make communion beautiful again rather than stressful/hazardous? I've thought of using a small wooden box to keep the host safe, and speaking with an usher or the priest ahead of time -- are there any other ideas? Can anyone suggest a place to buy a small, simple, pretty wooden box I could use to hold a gluten-free wafer or small piece of gluten-free bread? What could I do to be able to take the wine/juice with minimal disruption, so I can focus on the community and the ritual instead of worrying about celiac disease?
posted by cnidaria to Religion & Philosophy (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Cokesbury, the United Methodist supply house, carries gluten free communion wafers and portable communion kits. I bet you could even bring it up in the line or to the altar rail and get a blessing over it - I feel like any reasonable priest/pastor should be OK with this, especially if you were able to mention it ahead of time.
posted by Flannery Culp at 2:20 PM on October 7, 2018 [6 favorites]


If you go to one church all the time (or most of it), talk to the celebrant(s) directly about making sure there is a gf communion wafer (for example, there are other brands) on hand on a seperate plate and someone who has not touched the regular ones to serve you communion.

Or, better, ask them to switch entirely to gluten free wafers.

If you attend different churches, maybe call in advance, explain that you will be attending and tell them explicitly what your needs are and keep some gf wafers on hand.

Is there a church service in your area that uses gluten free wafers?

Is it possible to receive communion privately, and then choose to receive a blessing at the public service? (In the church I grew up attending -- Catholic, fwiw -- people who were, for whatever reason, unable to take communion during mass would be given communion privately.)
posted by platitudipus at 2:26 PM on October 7, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'm not savvy with the logistics of communion, but for the wine/juice, would you be able to go first consistently?

If your area has a Chinatown, you can buy small decorative wooden boxes there, or from an online supplier. They are often sold as jewelry boxes, but there's no reason you can't use them to keep a piece of bread/cracker.
posted by basalganglia at 2:27 PM on October 7, 2018


For carrying the host, you might want to consider purchasing a pyx - a small, sometimes ornate, container designed specifically for priests/Eucharistic ministers to transport the host to communicants who for whatever reason cannot attend church.
posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 2:41 PM on October 7, 2018 [5 favorites]


(Whilst most pyxes are aimed at the Catholic market, and their designs reflect that, they are also available in styles which are “generally Christian” rather than specifically Catholic.)
posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 2:49 PM on October 7, 2018 [1 favorite]


Considering the wafer is ornamental regalia, it is not necessary to eat the wafer in order to receive communion. However, here is a recipe for gluten free wafers to make at home.
posted by parmanparman at 3:31 PM on October 7, 2018


At my church (Presbyterian), they have big trays for the regular host, and a small one with gluten-free host that one person brings to the people they know who are gluten-free, or who watches for people who raise a hand to ask for the gluten-free host. The pastor announces this to the congregation before the servers head out with their trays.

Wine -- They have a tray that has individual holders (it's sort of like, a cover for the tray that's perforated with cup-sized holes) for teeny plastic cups (wine in the outer rim, grape juice in the inner rings). Maybe this is just Not Done in the denominations you mention, though.

I hope you do check with the pastor or ushers beforehand, to see how they can accommodate you!
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 3:34 PM on October 7, 2018


I'm catholic and apparently the catholic church doesn't believe in gluten free communion wafers. I haven't been to mass in a long time because I know I'd feel weird being left out (and at any rate, I wasn't able to find a parish home I loved after leaving my last).

But if I do find another, I will speak to them about getting a blessing instead. I'm just not sure how to indicate that without it being a bit of a fuss in the moment.

I hope you are able to find a solution in your church. I am as sensitive as you to the cross contamination so I really sympathise.
posted by kitten magic at 3:40 PM on October 7, 2018


Maybe this is just Not Done in the denominations you mention, though.

FWIW, my UCC church sometimes does the teeny plastic cups, so it's not totally Not Done.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:28 PM on October 7, 2018


Tangenting off slightly to answer kitten magic:

But if I do find another, I will speak to them about getting a blessing instead. I'm just not sure how to indicate that without it being a bit of a fuss in the moment.

I'm an atheist who was at a Catholic funeral mass this year, and for Reasons felt I should go up for communion for appearance's sake in this specific instance. The funeral director told me that current practice, at least in this parish, was that you could walk up for communion but cross your hands over your chest and bow your head, and the priest would bless you instead, which worked absolutely seamlessly. If that's a widespread practice, it's a great compromise, IMO.
posted by current resident at 4:34 PM on October 7, 2018 [9 favorites]


I had a friend who was celiac in the 90's, long before gluten free was everywhere. Her family were devout Catholics, and her mum used to buy gf wafers and put them in a little silver container that the priest attached to the main cup for wafers and got blessed at the same time as all the others. From memory, I think the priest handed her the sealed, blessed container and she served herself. Like others have said, this may be easier where you are a regular - though it's probably worth calling the church/es you attend and seeing what they generally do - it won't have been the first time they've been asked the question.
posted by cholly at 4:37 PM on October 7, 2018 [2 favorites]


My own Catholic church had at one point a "celiac cup". (It still may, but I have switched to a less popular Mass.)

The congregation was asked to let anyone who needed the accommodation go first to that chalice. At the time, I was avoiding wheat for other reasons, and when I once skipped the host and went straight to the cup, the lay minister asked me if I needed the celiac cup, but I didn't. Worst case was just a food sensitivity, much less serious.
posted by SereneStorm at 4:40 PM on October 7, 2018 [2 favorites]


The funeral director told me that current practice, at least in this parish, was that you could walk up for communion but cross your hands over your chest and bow your head, and the priest would bless you instead, which worked absolutely seamlessly. If that's a widespread practice, it's a great compromise, IMO.

Funnily enough, I just mentioned this in another question prompted by this one. I think this would be understood in Catholic churches, but, depending on the parish, you may be the only person doing it (with everyone else not taking communion just staying put).
posted by hoyland at 4:43 PM on October 7, 2018


United Methodist Pastor here. My church offers a separate gluten-free plate and chalice, which is consecrated on the communion table with the regular bread and juice (but off to the side to be safe). We make a point to tell everyone that we have a gluten-free station, and we do not dip the regular bread into the same cup that they use. We practice open communion, which means everyone is welcome to celebrate the sacrament, so in our thinking, we should have elements that everyone can receive.

If we did not do all of that and someone called and told me what you posted here, you had better believe things would change by next Sunday. Maybe just have a conversation with the pastor. You could bless other people who feel the same as you.

Also, today I had communion that was entirely gluten-free for everyone. A clergy friend bakes her own gluten-free communion bread, and it is awesome.
posted by 4ster at 5:32 PM on October 7, 2018 [5 favorites]


I just realized I did not really answer your question. Flannery Culp has a good suggestion above, but honestly, it should be on the church to make this right.
posted by 4ster at 5:35 PM on October 7, 2018


My church has a separate gluten-free container for the bread, and those who wish to partake are invited to open it and take a wafer for themselves, to minimize the risk of cross-contamination. It seems to work well.

Thanks for posting - I am now going to check in and see if there have been any requests for a gluten-free chalice. (I'm a Eucharistic minister, not a member of the clergy, so I might not know).
posted by dancing_angel at 7:44 PM on October 7, 2018


Communion this morning. Gluten-free was offered at the UMC church we were at, as it has been at every other flavor of church we've attended recently. However, cross-contamination has not been addressed.

I agree with Pastor 4ster. If you call the church you attend, and ask for a separate gluten-free table, it will be there next month.
posted by heigh-hothederryo at 8:08 PM on October 7, 2018


"I'm catholic and apparently the catholic church doesn't believe in gluten free communion wafers."

This is true; however, many Catholic priests will do it anyway if you ask.

The Protestant sects the OP mentions will definitely accommodate! You just need to ask. They may have a gluten-free set of hosts, or they may do one just for you kept separate, but all but the shittiest 10% of pastors in those sects will do this no problem, and can easily get gluten-free hosts from their supplier.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:51 PM on October 7, 2018


Just popping in to say this anonymous church in SF seems to be doing it... Overheard SF Instagram
posted by girlalex at 10:49 PM on October 7, 2018


Ireland has a disproportionate number of both celiacs and Catholics, so it’s absolutely a thing. I see that the letter refers also to “fresh” unleavened bread, I wouldn’t call a host fresh?
posted by Iteki at 11:37 PM on October 7, 2018


Talk with your church. My Catholic Church has no problem having separate GF communion, on separate pyx or whatever the pretty little plate is called. Just have to alert them to which mass you attend and wait in a separate area and they serve it first. I don’t think the Eucharist ministers even touches it beforehand.
posted by Neekee at 4:28 AM on October 8, 2018


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