The Allergy Friendly Church Communion Protocol
A step by step guide to integrating allergy friendly communion wafers in your church.
1. Who needs them? Find out who needs allergy friendly wafers, what they need to be free from, and how many people already need them. Also, see if anyone needs sulfite free wine. (Be warned: once the allergy friendly community in your town finds out that you are welcoming people with allergies to participate in your service, you may find that new people who need allergy friendly wafers start coming.)
2. Aquire allergy friendly wafers that your members can have! (You may think this is a no-brainer, however, you would be surprised. Many people who have one allergy or intolerance, have multiple allergies. Many times it can be difficult to find wafers that are completely free of all issues.) Some companies that sell communion specific wafers are Ener-G and Almy. If an allergy friendly member would like to make their own, there are many easy recipes on the Internet and on this site. Another idea would to buy allergy friendly crackers such as those sold by Mary's Gone Crackers, Enjoy Life, Glutino, Schar, Van's, Gluten Free, Triumph Dining, and many more.
3. Share! Let people know that you have allergy friendly wafers and what brand they are. This is really important. Put information about availability of Allergy friendly communion in your bulletin along with the reasoning for no intinction. When it is time to renew your advertising, add the availability of allergy friendly communion to your yellow page or other advertisements. Add information about your allergy free communion to your web site. This would be a good place to post the ingredients of your wafer choice. The gratitude you will receive for your attention to detail will bless you again and again. This allows allergenic newcomers to make informed decisions about whether or not they can participate in communion. Also, make sure the rest of the congregation knows about the allergy friendly options, especially ushers and greeters(!), so that they know what is going on, know the procedures, and in case a newcomer asks them.
4. Prepare the wafers properly. Make sure that whoever sets up the allergy friendly wafers before the service does so directly after washing their hands and before touching anything else. Place the wafers on a clean plate or in a clean pyx/box, put them where they need to be, and then leave them alone. Do Not Touch Them! The wafers need to remain uncontaminated so as not to make people sick. For a priest: If you use real bread for communion, please do not break it directly over the cup of wine. Crumbs can then fall into the wine and contaminate it without anyone being able to tell. Also, please do not touch the allergy friendly wafers themselves during the prayers. Simply touching the edge of the plate or box is perfectly fine.
5. Develop a sign, signal, or way to share that a person is allergic at communion. This can be as simple as telling the clergy member that you need the allergy friendly option or as silent as putting your hands out palm down.
6. Extend the whole plate/pyx/box to the allergy free person and let them take a wafer for themselves. This will keep the wafer uncontaminated and keep the person happy and healthy.
7. Keep intinction from happening in your church! Intinction, having people dip the wafer or bread in the cup of wine or juice, allows the liquid to become contaminated with allergens and bacteria. If you need to see the studies about how drinking out of the same cup is cleaner and than having people put their hands in the same cup, you can find them online. Add a line to your bulletin communion instructions about your intinction practices; a simple suggestion: "For reasons of public health, please do not intinct, or dip, the bread in the wine."
Be patient: everyone needs some time to adjust. The priest, the congregation, the old man in the back who hasn't realized yet that a change has happened, even the allergy free person. You may not think the allergy free person really needs to adjust, but if they are new to the diet, they are going through withdrawal. If they are old hat at the diet but new to being able to have communion safely, it will take some time to get comfortable.
Be kind. Dietary restrictions can be very personal, especially around communion. In any situation where people feel cut off from the larger community and its sacred rituals, people can be easily hurt. Take the time to find out about the struggles allergy free members face while being a part of your community.
Please let me know if you need any clarifications or have any suggestions.