Does Your Church Offer Gluten-Free Communion? | Triumph Dining

7058-communion-wafers_imgWe’ve been hearing from more and more of you that your churches are beginning to offer gluten-free options for communion (see our 2012 article here)

A woman from Madison, Wisconsin, who has celiac disease, says that she has a special arrangement for communion at St. Dennis Catholic Church in Madison. She avoids taking a wafer and drinks out of a separate cup to avoid cross contamination.

“Sometimes other people dip wafers, containing gluten, in the common cup or discharge particles into it. That contaminates the wine for a celiac,” she says. 

Many churches are beginning to understand the need to offer gluten-free communion (the wafers are normally made from wheat!) for those of us who are forced to remain strictly gluten-free, but they seem to be going about it in different ways.

According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Churches are not allowed to use gluten-free bread or wafers because “it’s impossible to consecrate a host made of something other than wheat and water.”

As a result, many churches offer low-gluten wafers approved by the Catholic Church. However since they still contain trace amounts of gluten, these are not at all safe for celiacs and many people with gluten intolerance.

Is it just me or is this completely absurd? This leaves those of us who wish to take communion, unable to; unless we want to risk a whole variety of awful symptoms.

St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Waunakee doesn’t provide low-gluten wafers but it reserves the chalice, containing wine considered precious blood after consecration, for people with celiac disease or other gluten sensitivities Other worshipers at St. John receive only the host and the church considers having either the body or blood of Christ a full communion.

Other denominations, such as Lutherans and Methodists, do permit gluten-free bread or wafers.

Does your church offer gluten-free communion? If so, how do they do it?

Post by Laura at Gluten Free Traveller

26 thoughts on “Does Your Church Offer Gluten-Free Communion? | Triumph Dining”

  1. I attend Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church in WV. After discussion, the session decided to switch to gluten-free bread (baked in church owned dedicated GF bread makers) for communion. This enables those of us who cannot eat gluten to participate fully, with no feeling of exclusion and no fear of contamination. For similar reasons we use grape juice instead of alcoholic wine.

  2. I asked for a simple change of wording so that I don’t look like a non-Catholic or a sinner. I received no response and saw no change. I accept the blessing as the next best thing- for now, at least.

  3. If the Catholic church is aiming to be so hide-bound (“impossible… to consecrate”), why don’t they use “buckwheat”, since as we know, it isn’t “really” wheat, thus safe for celiacs, but the WORD may satisfy their bureaucratic tangle (I certainly hope it’s not a religious tangle). Maybe the issue needs to be posed to the new pope – he’s a guy with a lot of compassion and commonsense. I’d get on it, but I’m Lapsed. Anyone?

  4. I am a Presbyterian (PCUSA) and we do offer gluten free wafers when we serve communion. We post in the bulletin that they are available to anyone who needs one, and at the moment we have three regular users of the GF wafers. I think it is vitally important for churches to do this. It is a central part of most people’s faith lives, and being unable to participate is just awful.

  5. I am Catholic and have Celiac. When my son was to receive his first communion, I was told that our Church had GF communion. Well, as I am severe Celiac, I checked the package and plain site it said “low gluten” and the first ingredient was wheat!!! I pointed this out and got “well it says it is gluten free”

    The Catholic Church will kill someone or make them extremely sick if they continue this way of thinking.

  6. I’m also Presbyterian, and my church offers gluten free wafers. An announcement is made so the congregation knows they are available. Grape juice (subbed for wine, to accommodate anyone who cannot/should not drink wine) is served in small cups. If you can eat bread, you are given a piece of bread, which can be dipped in a communal cup. I dipped my GF wafer in the communal cup once (when newly diagnosed), but I was quite sick afterward — I will never do so again!
    P.S. A Catholic friend explained that the wafer can ONLY be made from wheat, as that’s what the Bible states. Just telling you what she said…

  7. Last (large) Baptist church I went to simply switched to GF product bought at health food store for everyone in congregation. Wish they’d made an announcement, or even printed info. somewhere for those unaware it was GF. That same info. would be helpful concerning peanut, as my daughter must refrain unless we can talk to someone first to find out if it’s safe. Current Baptist church is so small, a woman makes it homemade GF for everyone because they simply enjoy feeling like a close family.

  8. My Roman Catholic Church provides LOW GLUTEN ALTAR BREADS or hosts made by Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. Phone – 1-800-223-2772. altar [email protected]
    Ingredients: Wheat starch, water. Less than 0.01% gluten content.
    “Approved for the Roman Catholic Church by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops”

  9. When I was first diagnosed with Celiac ,my pastor (Roman Catholic) provided me with a smaller chalice with the blessed wine in it. Communion was always so special to me and this made receiving the Sacrament even more special. My pastor, Msgr George Farland of the Sacred Heart Church in Springfield, Ma also begins each homily with a short joke which makes us laugh, relaxes our minds and opens our hearts to the sermon. I wish more priests were like him.

  10. When I became a deacon in our small Massachusetts Congregational Church (United Church of Christ), I asked if we could switch to gluten free bread for communion, and I would bring it. Bread at our communion is presented as cubes that someone has cut up at home. My request was made to accommodate my celiac husband. My offer was readily accepted, and I have been supplying bread ever since (17 years). The most amusing reaction was when my husband’s fellow choir members reached out to slap his hand the first time he reached for the (unknown to them) GF bread. Now the only issue is to let newcomers know, in case they need to know.

  11. A few years ago a Catholic bishop in St. Louis stated that the Catholic church could not accommodate folks who are gluten free. It is another absurd statement of a man-made rule. So what else is new! Maybe Pope Francis should be made aware of this! I’m now Presbyterian and we have gluten free communion for everyone — it is announced and it’s printed in the bulletin. We also have designated gluten free food for other church events.

  12. Our church has gluten-freen communion; no gluten hosts period. This was not an overnight change. When I went GF 11 years ago, it didn’t know how to handle the communion. Initially, I was too embarrassed to say anything to our pastor. The first few times I’d palm the host and give it my wife to eat when we returned to the pew. I felt horrible, my guilt & shame trumped my embarrassment and I spoke to the paster. She was terrific.

    Since it was only myself, we worked out a system where I’d supply and place my own host on a napkin on the altar before the service. When I came up, she grabbed the napkin and I picked up the host. As time went on my wife began to teach and train the others on the altar guild [those responsible for setting up for communion]. Members were all very good about keeping my wafers separate – few members were afraid to touch them in fear of making me sick. I assured them if their hands were clean, and the two wafers never touched, I’d be fine. This procedure went on for many years – it worked well – I was pleased.

    Enter a new pastor. She was fine with the system that we had devised with the previous pastor and continued using it. Lo and behold, about 3 years ago our new [current] pastor was diagnosed with celiac disease!

    Due to the logistics of how we do our communion, the pastor and the church leaders decided to switch the entire communion to be completely gluten-free. Since my wife is an avid baker, we supplied many loaves of bread for our communion. We tried several homemade recipes, different mixes, different flavors, etc. Overall the results were favorable, but there were a few not fully on board for a variety of reasons. We even had a few people ask to eat the leftovers after the service!

    Since my wife and I run a CD/GF support group, I decided to hold an adult education hour on celiac disease and gluten-free. Of course a church meeting would not complete without several GF cookie, cakes and bars for sampling. The meeting was well attended, members had a lot of great questions. They loved the snacks! After that class, those that weren’t onboard had a change of heart.

    Today, we don’t always have homemade bread. Most occasions we have store bought bagels, we have found a few cracker products that are suitable.

    I must say, when I attend a communion service outside of our own church, I have some feelings of exclusion. This pushes my sense of appreciation and gratitude towards my church and church family to a whole new level. Thanks St. Stephen’s!

  13. I am a Catholic and Communion wafers are required to have some wheat in them. The ones I get at my Church are low gluten with less than 0.01% gluten content. The ingredients are wheat starch and water. I have a pix that I put the wafer in and I put it on the alter when I get to Church so it can get consecrated with the other wafers. When Mass is over I go up to the alter and take the Communion myself.

  14. We purchase our own “GF” hosts, which are termed “low gluten” (less than 0.01% gluten content) altar breads. They are approved for Eucharist liturgy by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and my daughter has not had any side effects at all as the size of the host and the .01% is so limited. Our doctor approved. We bring it in our own pyx to Mass and put it on the altar. Our pastor is very good with the process. We order them from the Benedictine Sisters at We keep them in the freezer to keep them fresh. I recommend them.

  15. There is no reason one cannot receive communion at a Catholic Church. The low gluten wafers contain 0.01% gluten . I am celiac and have the complication of collagenous sprue. I have used these hosts for years and my yearly endoscopies show no additional damage and I have not been ill.

  16. I am Methodist. My church has a gluten free option-gluten free crackers which we dip into a separate cup from the others.

  17. I make GF bread and we have a GF station for those needing GF with its own juice for dunking. There are several stations but it is always announced that there is a gluten free station and where it is. We have 7-12 people take GF communion.

  18. I attend an Episcopal church. Three weeks after I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2007 they had a gluten free wafer and a separate chalice for me. As I was the first person to request/need this (surprising given the size of our parish), I thought they accommodated me very quickly.

    The priests and or members of the altar party looks for me so that they can be ready for me. It helps that my husband is tall so if they see him, they can be pretty certain I am there as well.

    When I am visiting other parishes, I contact them in advance to see if they can accommodate and work out how to let them know I am there, etc. Even in a tiny church in Jasper, Alberta, Canada, which we visit when on vacation, they are able to take care of me because a parish member has a relative who is GF and she tells them how to do it correctly.

  19. I am disappointed in the Catholic Church in this matter. Just because the bread was made from wheat in the Bible does not mean that God has mandated that it be made of wheat for communion. Wheat is not any more or less holy than any other grain. Communion should be made available to all believers, and as some believers have celiac disease, I believe that the church is responsible for making the wafers safe for everyone.

  20. I live in Orange County, California and all of the Catholic churches close to me offer gluten free communion wafers. A few advertise it in their weekly bulletin.

  21. Sorry – I touched something on the keyboard that took me away from here! Anyway – the Benedictine sisters in Clyde MO make gluten free hosts and they are very reasonable. My parish gets them for me. So it you google the Benedictine sisters of Perpetual Adoration, you will find the information to inform your pastor. Sometimes, they need a nudge!!!!

    Good luck!

  22. I have spoken with two pastors in order to get gluten-free communion hosts. They were both more than willing to get the hosts for me.There are three churches in my community that offer gluten-free.
    Push for your church to get Gluten Free hosts for you. Explain the danger of eating gluten when you have celiac disease. Don’t assume people understand a gluten free diet. Some think it is a fad.
    Good luck.

  23. Its unfair to say that Catholic Church does not have alternatives for people with gluten sensivity. Its true that the bread for communion should be of wheat but The Bennedictine Sisters make a very low gluten host which meets the FDA definition. Im from Puerto Rico and my son has celiac since he was five and I buy the host by internet and bring it always whenever participate in a mass. Obviously you need to make arrangements on time(no five minutes before the celebration) If any person does not have the low gluten host or is very sensitive, there is not reason for not participate because he can received the Precious Blood with same spiritual effect. If anyone has problem with his priest(possibly for ignorance because not all them are fully oriented about this matter) he or she needs to talk with the bishop. Be polite and respectful is very important for effective communication. Dont get to conclusion before talk. Bishops are very open to listen their feligresy.

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