In my new church, a mother and child have a problem with intolerance to gluten. The Deacons arranged to have an option of gluten free bread, and because it is a smaller church, they were able to offer it specifically to mother and child. But the mother is concerned that having the two kinds of bread handled by the same people or sliced and cubed in the same preparation area might lead to stray crumbs falling and leading to an allergic reaction.
I wonder if any of the Matriarchs have dealt with this kind of concern, and if so, what approaches have been tried? I hate for this mother and child to be excluded.
We got some great tips from our matriarchs, staring with Peripatetic Polar Bear:
Use different colors to distinguish: The gluten-free bread is put in a pottery bowl of a blue hue. (Grape juice is also in a blue chalice---regular bread and regular wine are in brown chalices/platters). We use a bowl instead of a platter so that we can directly dump the bread into it without the chance that the bread will fall onto the counter. The bowl also prevents the person serving the bread from accidentally touching the bread on the side if he/she had been involved in the wheat bread prep.
Prepare them before the service, separately: I would think that it would be possible to cube the bread at the time of purchase, on a clean cutting tray and then freeze it until use, thus avoiding handling the bread the day of communion, when you're preparing the other bread. Or, if the mother was especially nervous, it could be cubed at HER home, bagged and brought to the church to be frozen. Preparing it this way would also allow you to bag it in small quantities. Just have a clearly marked tray for it, that is never used by the other breads. I'm guessing you might use the silver trays--it's possible to either etch something into them, or use a dot of nail polish in the center to set it off from the others. The silver trays are much harder to clean than pottery, so it would be important to be very consistent about always using the same tray.
Advertise your awareness: I think it's fantabulous that you are providing this ministry. Since you never know who your guests in church might be, I think I'd note it in your bulletin--"Please ask a Deacon for gluten-free bread." It's a nice sign of welcome, as you never know who might walk in your doors with this growingly more prevalent allergy.
Go gluten-free: If your church is really rather small, why not just serve gluten-free bread to everyone? One of our former Parish Associates had celiac disease. Rather than having him break the bread over a bowl instead of a platter, we just all had gluten-free bread that day, and it was fine. I know gluten-free is a little harder to find, and a little more expensive, but for a small church, it's probably far easier to do it this way!
Let them choose what to take: We have become increasingly aware of gluten intolerance. Although we were prepared to offer gluten–free communion wafers to the 2-3 persons with this sensitivity, they have chosen to commune only with the wine/grape juice in order to avoid cross-contamination.
We use rice cakes broken up as our gluten-free, wheat free option. Those who requested the option have never voiced any concerns about "stray crumbs".
More on going gluten-free: The best solution IMO is to make gluten free bread for the whole congregation rather than have a separate bread for the mother and child. There are lots of recipes available - a quick internet search will find them. We use a prepackaged, just add water, gluten free product from the local health food/organic store. If you live in a city, you can buy gluten free bread off the shelf. The thing to look for is a bread that is not very crumbly (hate those floaters in the wine!!), that stays intact when broken into pieces. You can also use rice crackers for individual servings like one uses wheat wafers --- many of the liturgical supply houses for wafers also sell gluten free wafers.
Keep 'em separated: If your church decides to continue with whatever bread it is currently using and the mother fears contamination, here is another solution. Our altar guild bought little plastic bags--they are about 2 by 2 inches or so. The person with the allergy fills the bags with one wafer in each bag, and as I distribute the bread, the gluten-free wafer is kept separate from the other bread. The person with the allergies takes the wafer out of the plastic as I hold on to the bag. I never touch her bread. She likes this solution the best; she feels safer and in charge of her own solution.
Keep others in the loop: I think however it is handled, it is a good thing to educate the congregation about what is happening, and why, so that the example of hospitality is being set, as well as so that any visitors with gluten intolerance will know what is available.
And when they travel...: One of the clergy I contacted also has a son who has gluten intolerance. When she is in a church where they are not prepared to deal with this, she makes sure to carry his box of wafers and a paper napkin with her. She can then place the napkin and wafter on the altar, and later hold it in her hand, which is holding the paten. She then gives him the napkin with the wafer folded in it.
I should note that Abi, St. Casserole and Singing Owl all made similar comments as well: use a plastic bag, make sure it looks totally different or is "packaged" in some way, be sure to educate your other members, including inviting a medical professional to explain why it's so important to pay attention to potential allergens in food we serve at hospitality events, too, as Abi suggested.
How are you dealing with this in your congregation? Anything in particular stand out as a successful way of including people with these or any other allergies/sensitivities that prevent them from participating in communion? Please share them in the comments!
And, as always, if you have a question about ministry that you'd like the matriarchs to answer, please send them to AskTheMatriarch@gmail.com.