Written by: Rachael Keefe

It’s Not About the Bread (unless you can’t have it)

Lately, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about communion bread and why it’s important to offer bread that everyone can eat. So here is a very brief version of my …

It’s Not About the Bread (unless you can’t have it)

Lately, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about communion bread and why it’s important to offer bread that everyone can eat. So here is a very brief version of my story followed by my favorite communion bread recipe.

When I first moved to New Hampshire more than five years ago, I discovered a great church. They were open and progressive and sought to include everyone. My first Sunday there was a communion Sunday. That day they made a point about communion being a feast. They had a processional with all different kinds of breads. It made for a pretty table and a wonderful point. But by the time the pastor got to the point about no one being excluded from this wondrous holy feast, I was in tears. Not because it was theologically moving (which it was) but because I was not included in this amazing meal where Christ is host and all are equal guests – unless you have celiac disease and/or other food allergies.

That Sunday was painful for me. I had become used to not being able to receive communion when I was not the pastor (because I bake the bread), but this particular Sunday was something more. It touched all the places in my life where I had not felt welcome to the table (it’s a long story for another post) and I needed to feel connected and included in my new surroundings.

Fortunately, the pastors of this church are caring, compassionate people. They talked to me and we worked out that I would make bread for communion next month. But it was bread for a separate plate and chalice. I got closer to the table, but it still made me feel unwelcome to some extent. This went on for a while. But a few more people spoke up about their food intolerances and allergies. I adapted the bread recipe to be gluten, corn, oat, dairy, and soy free with the invitation that more changes could be made if there was need.

After a while, I started to bake bread for the whole congregation and it felt great to be back at the table with everyone else. Yes, there were people who grumbled about the bread. It tasted different and didn’t have the texture they were used to and why can’t we just use pita bread like we always have?

Because communion was never supposed to be about the bread or the wafer or the wine or the juice. It’s about the grace extended to each of us in the extravagance of Jesus’ love for us. We are supposed to embody the equally extravagant hospitality this grace requires of us.

Gluten Free Bread Recipes:

Regular Bread… Makes one small (think hamburger bun size) for breaking and one loaf for cubing or tearing for about 100 people
3 eggs
¼ c oil
¼ c sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp of guar gum (or xanthan gum… omit if using a flour blend with gum already in it)
1 c white rice flour
1 c brown rice flour
1 c tapioca flour
1/3 c potato flour or garbanzo bean flour
1/3 c coconut flour     (or 3 2/3 c of gluten free flour blend)
1 tbsp yeast
1 tsp vinegar
1 ¼ c nondairy milk (almond works well)

Beat eggs, add oil and sugar. Add salt and guar gum. Blend in flours, yeast, and vinegar. Heat milk to luke warm and add in. When combined, beat on medium-high for 5 minutes. Dough will be soft. Spoon into desired shape (loaf pans or rolls) let rise in warm place for about 1 hour. Bake at 380 for 20-30 min depending on shape of bread.

For those of you who like to use a slightly sweet bread for communion:2013-10-25 19.41.24

1 ¾ c powdered sugar (make sure to by conf. sugar without corn starch)
¼ tsp salt
1 c gluten free flour (rice works well)
12 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla (almond, lemon or orange works also)
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice or pineapple juice (optional)                                                                                                                                                   (Mini sweet loaves for NHCUCC Annual                                                                                           Meeting 2013)
Preheat oven to 350

Sift salt and sugar together. Set aside half the sugar. Sift flour and ½ sugar/salt mix together. Beat egg whites, extract, cream of tartar and juice on medium speed until foamy. Add sugar (not flour/sugar mix) and beat until soft peaks form. Fold in remaining sugar/flour mix. Spoon into angel food pan or 10 inch spring form pan… or any other kind of pan will work. Bake for about 40 min. Cool upside down for about an hour.

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About Rachael Keefe

Rachael is an author, a pastor, a teacher, and a poet. Her latest book (The Lifesaving Church - Chalice Press) is on faith and suicide prevention. She is currently the pastor of Living Table UCC in Minneapolis, and has launched a spiritual direction practice.

4 thoughts on “It’s Not About the Bread (unless you can’t have it)”

  1. In the psych hospital, we had a patient who was deathly allergic to wheat. (Her father was a Kansas Wheat farmer, hows that for irony.) We used rice cakes so she could participate.

    • Thanks for sharing your solution to this problem. Rice cakes can certainly work. I have found, though, that congregations want a more bread-like product for a long term solution. True irony with that patient!

  2. I baked both versions of the bread and had a taste test at our Bible study. The sweet version, which our pastor had tasted previously at a conference, was very salty – which he said was different than he recalled. I followed the ingredients listed precisely. Is 1/4 cup of salt correct?

    • Oh my goodness! I am so sorry for that unfortunate typo. It’s supposed to be a 1/4 teaspoon. No wonder your bread was salty! I am going to fix that right now!


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