Question:

I am conflicted on a matter in regard to the Lord's Supper. I have been asked to prepare the communion next month, and along with this was the request to put wafers along with the bread in the trays. I have humbly submitted to our very fine elders that I have some difficulty in following this request on the basis that I understand that the bread is to be broken among all of us and that allowing for individuals to partake of wafers individually does not seem to align with what I had thought were clear passages from the New Testament.

It seems from Acts 20:7 that the "breaking of bread" is a synecdoche for the entire communion; the bread and the cup. But the saying had to come from the very act of breaking the bread itself. In I Corinthians 10:16 Paul mentions the "bread which we break" and he also echoes this in I Corinthians 11:24. It is also mentioned in three of the gospels. It seems to be emblematic of Christ's body which was broken for us.

I readily admit that I may be misunderstanding this and this is not an issue that should cause division. However, at present, I fear that the wafers are offered in error. I cannot do this of faith at this moment until I have some resolution in this matter. May we partake of wafers and bread for the Lord's Supper?


Answer:

When in doubt the first step is to ask why a practice is being done. It appears you told the elders your view, but it doesn't come across that you asked them for a reason as to why they are practicing what they are doing. As a side curiosity, I'm puzzled why this question is coming up now. Since you're a member of the congregation, you must have noticed that the trays had wafers and bread. It leaves me wondering why you haven't asked before about the practice.

The breaking of the bread isn't an incidental. It has symbolic meaning. "And when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me"" (I Corinthians 11:24). We cannot alter the representation any more than we can exchange leavened bread for unleavened because it also has meaning -- it represents Christ's sinless life (I Corinthians 5:7-8). We also have the example that it was an action that the disciples did during communion. "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" (I Corinthians 10:16).

But as I noted, you didn't ask why. I happen to have a niece who is highly allergic to gluten which is present in the wheat most bread is made from. I also know that most wafers are made of rice flour which has no gluten. We had discussions on how to handle my niece's condition once she became a Christian. In her case even some crumbs from the wheat bread could set off her condition, so it has to be kept separate. But we know that the breaking of the bread is important as well, so my sister makes special rice flour bread for her. We decided against the wafers since they are not readily breakable.

I wouldn't be at all surprised that your elders know there are people in the congregation who are allergic to gluten and decided to make a gluten-free alternative available to some. Since the wafers bother you, why don't you do some research and locate some gluten-free unleavened bread that can be broken or find someone in the congregation who is willing and able to make it. Don't just offer complaints, offer a better solution to the problem.

My sister found a great solution, a product called Hot Kid Organic Toddler Mum-Mum Original Rice Biscuits which only contains Japonica rice, sugar, potato starch, sea salt, and gelatin. It can be found in grocery stores. They are usually packaged two wafers in a sealed bag so they don't spoil quickly.

To keep the gluten-free bread from contacting the wheat bread, the congregation she attends puts the gluten-free bread in a paper cupcake liner so it can be passed with the regular bread on the same tray.

Here is a recipe based on ones I found from Living Without Magazine:

This recipe makes tortilla-like wafers that can be broken into smaller pieces for consumption. The wafers keep well in the freezer.

6 cups gluten-free flour
1 cup olive oil
1 cup milk
2 eggs
Xanthan gum

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Mix all ingredients together well and knead. Add xanthan gum as needed to make dough slightly sticky.
  • Roll out dough into thin layer. Cut around a small saucer or a glass to measure "tortillas."
  • Bake 7 or 8 minutes on each side.
  • After tortillas cool, break each into pieces for serving.

I greatly appreciate your quick response. I take responsibility for the foot dragging in raising the question and you are correct in that I do not fully understand why the wafers were implemented. My understanding was that it was implemented for sanitary reasons when the H1N1 became prevalent. Even so this should not warrant a diversion from the breaking of the bread. From your response I am further persuaded that the breaking of the bread is important and that if wafers are implemented it should be done so with the understanding that they ought to be broken. Thank you again for your consideration.

The wafers would not be a solution to limiting the spread of a disease since the trays are passed and breathed over. I agree that this concern is not a justification for altering what God laid out for us to do. I suspect the likelihood of spreading a disease through the communion bread is minimal at best.