Submitted by Donnamae Craber Grannemann
Practicing hospitality in the name of Jesus not only refers to who is included, but what is served.1) In one of my churches a few years ago, I observed a woman opening her purse during communion on several occasions and removing a special piece of bread. Being curious, I approached her and asked if she was gluten intolerant and she informed me that she was. “You do not need to bring your own bread. The congregation can provide special bread.”
Every time the bread was broken around the table, a small 2″ X 2″ plastic zip top jewelry bag containing a small piece of rice wafer or fresh gluten-free bread was included on each bread tray.The bag includes a small return address label with the words:
Special Communion Wafer - Free of gluten, wheat, dairy & corn
I further observed that a couple of people never accepted the wine or the grape juice because of allergies, alcoholism or prescription restrictions. A cup of water was added to each tray. That means in some worship settings there is red wine, amber grape juice and clear water. When possible, mark the tray with a small “g” for grape juice, “wa” for water, and place these in the center circle.
The following is a suggested wording for the bulletin and media projection:
The Lord’s table is open to all. Christ invites you to be his guest. For those with food allergies, there are small plastic bags of special Communion Wafers—free of Gluten, Wheat, Dairy & Corn. Each cup tray contains wine, amber grape juice & 2 water (free of any juice). If there are no more wafers or water cups, request that the server provide them from another tray.
The number of persons identified with Celiac disorder (gluten intolerance) and lactose/dairy intolerance is increasing. Even a small amount of gluten can be life-threatening. This bread must be encased in a small bag so that it does not come into contact with the wheat/gluten crackers or bread. Be sure to keep the gluten-free wafers tightly wrapped and in the freezer with the date opened written on the package. Then replace regularly. If you use the tiny hard wheat squares or rectangular pieces, add a few round wafer discs or soup crackers for those who are unable to pickup the smaller pieces. Never serve stale products. Grape juice needs to be used within three weeks or pour into tall ketchup/mustard type plastic bottles, wrap lids and freeze. Defrost the day prior to use and dispense as usual.
What’s on the table for potluck dinners and fellowship time? One of the churches I served advertized a cheese, crackers and fruit snack to accompany tours of the church’s beautiful stained glass windows and wall murals after one of the City parades. A lovely young lady came, looked at the display of food and asked, “Do you have any foods which are gluten and dairy free? I’m hungry.” We didn’t, but I hurried upstairs to get her some of the special rice crackers we had stored in the freezer for communion. You see, none of the restaurants in the area were accommodating either. Mark these items on the table as “gluten-free”, “dairy free” and place them on a separate serving plate or tray. Soups can be marked also. Serving a spaghetti dinner? Have some gluten-free spaghetti on hand and advertise that it will be available. It only takes a few minutes to cook t up in” fresh” water which can already be warm on the burner in the event it is requested. A can f tomato sauce and cooked ground beef or turkey with nothing added can be on hand. Add a little salt, pepper and Italian seasoning for flavor.(meatballs in the regular sauce may contain wheat, flour, cereal and eggs). Provide a slice of fresh, gluten-free bread, but do not add butter or margarine if lactose intolerant
At conferences, assemblies and gatherings, gluten/dairy free cookies and other snacks can be provided, as well as special elements when communion is served. One of the pastors with Celiac disorder could break bread at the Lord’s table but was unable to partake of it. Alternative bread is now provided and identified in addition to the traditional bread or breads.
This is not an issue of picky preference, but can be a matter of health or serious illness. Even if you are unable to identify anyone in your congregation or larger gathering with these challenges, you never know who may be participating and be touched by full food inclusion.
Christ declared that all are invited to the table, whatever manifestation that takes. Let’s extend that opportunity as far as we are able to do so.
If you would like to become a “Table Hospitality Congregation” e-mail your decision to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and you will receive a certificate to post. The list of participating congregations will be published in a forthcoming issue.
A source for Special Communion Wafers – Free of: Gluten, Wheat, Dairy & Corn is produced by Ener-G Foods www.ener-g.com in Seattle WA if you’d prefer these over the rice ones available in grocery and health food stores.