Communion bread

altar_bread_460Friend Amy Bayersdorferfer asked, “For the less knowledgeable, what makes communion bread?” The short answer, Amy, in the modern Christian tradition, is “almost anything that can be called bread.”

Traditionally, in catholic (e.g. Roman and Episcopal) churches, an unleavened, productized communion wafer has served the purpose for many decades. However, more recently, Christian communities in the U.S. have been choosing bread with a less mass-market, cardboard-like consistency (those little wafers can be had for $19 the thousand at Amazon and $12 per thousand at “Christian” suppliers like ChurchPartner.com).

In particular, congregations who seek, at least symbolically, to re approach Christianity’s 1st-century roots, wherein communion was not a ritual, but literally communing – as in getting together for a meal – have opted for as many different kinds of bread as there are faith communities.

Our church, Holy Trinity, uses a bread recipe that, apparently, is popular with other Episcopal churches and was introduced into our midst, I believe, by the Rev. Beth Foote. I’d describe the bread as small, soft, bun-like rounds, made from a mix of whole wheat and white flour with honey and olive oil. They are leavened, despite the fact that Christ, celebrating Passover, would have shared unleavened bread with the Apostles at the last supper – but, then, Episcopalians have always been a little loose with Scripture, if not ritual. In any case, the use of unleavened bread is not canonical in the Episcopal church.

The cross cut in the top of each round is both symbolic and practical – it makes it easy to break the bread and the honey-and-oil texture minimizes annoying ‘crumb fallout.’ The honey also gives the bread a wonderful flavor. I don’t think you can buy this bread anywhere, so communities that use it form small ministries who shoulder the task of producing the bread. Which is what my “girls'” bread-baking group was about last night. Here’s the Communion Bread Recipe (pdf)

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About Chris Gulker

Chris Gulker, a self-described Infuential Blogger, lived in Menlo Park, California with spouse Linda. He passed away in late October 2010.
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3 Responses to Communion bread

  1. Beth Ann Daye says:

    Wonderful sentiment, beautiful mini-loaves and I’m sure, delicious. I have a feeling that recipe could work in a number of other situations also.

  2. Anonymous says:

    It’s probably sold in Utah. Obviously not the bay area.

  3. cg says:

    Actually, I think there are relatively few Episcopalians in Utah. There are plenty of Mormons, of course, and they do take communion (sitting in the pews as opposed to coming to the altar, as is common in catholic churches). No idea what kind of bread they use…

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