Holy Communion Wine, Batman!

I was raised in the Episcopal church – baptized and confirmed. But not married. More on that in a bit.

I used to love going to church as a kid. In fact, I frequently joined my parents for weekly Sunday services as an adult before getting married. Christmas Eve has always been my favorite. But, truly, I just enjoy going to church. Sadly, I do not go often and, before this past Sunday morning, the last time I attended an Episcopal church service was at least three years ago. Probably more.

In 2000, I married a Jewish man. Shortly afterwards, I stopped going to church regularly. In fact, for a while after we became engaged I even considered converting to Judaism. That is, until I realized the choice would have been more for the convenience of child rearing than my own happiness.

So, last Saturday, when my parents invited me to join them at church the next morning, I was ecstatic. We’re on vacation, staying with them. My mom and dad talk about their church community frequently and they both volunteer for the parish. I felt honored to be included.

Sunday morning arrived and off we went. In the pew, I sat between my parents. The service began and I found myself not even needing to crack open a prayer book. I remembered everything. Easily. Like no time had passed. It felt so good to be there. Though I felt quite small and almost like a child. The service was wonderful. I loved the sermon – go into the world filled with the love of Jesus and use that power to make a difference. Sounds good to me.

imageThen, the celebrant began the Eucharistic Prayer. I nearly choked. Holy crow, I thought. Bread and wine. Wine. Wine. Wine. What am I supposed to do about the wine. I began to panic. I had not prepared for this. Not one bit.

Deep breath. Deep breath. Breathe in. Breathe out. It’s going to be fine. Think. Think. A debate commenced inside my head.

If I take a sip from the chalice, will it be a relapse? I am NOT moving onto sobriety date number three. No stinking way. Are alcoholics in recovery allowed to have Communion wine?

Wait a second. Why am I even asking myself this. Of course I cannot drink it! Who am I kidding? God will understand. Take the bread and refuse the wine.

Hold on. What if it’s not real wine. Some churches use grape juice, right? I leaned over and whispered in my dad’s ear, “Is it real wine?” He nodded.

Alright, I thought. Just skip it. No one here knows you. No one will notice. No explanation needed. It doesn’t matter.

But, it did make me wonder whether churches do anything special for alcoholics in recovery who want to receive Communion. I’ll have to research that …

After church, I talked with my mom about it. She recalled that at some point well into recovery my grandmother did again start taking Communion, wine and all. I suppose there may come a time when I am comfortable doing that. But, clearly, not now.


  1. Thanks Emily for this – I used to think like this also! and realized its too slipper of a slope to take the wine at communion. Not worth it! Stay true to you!

  2. My mom was in recovery and at church every Sunday took the bread and just put her hand up to pass on the wine. I don’t think the minister cared one bit!

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