It started as a simple request on a private Facebook page for women in the Winona Lake, Ind., Grace Brethren Church (Bruce Barlow, lead pastor).
Anyone else thinking of making unleavened bread for communion? On a side note, does anyone have the WLGBC recipe to make unleavened bread?
The families of the church, like many others around the nation and world, were preparing for an at-home communion. The Coronavirus pandemic was forcing congregations to re-think traditional Holy Week celebrations, like communion. Sure, the pastor would likely lead the service, albeit online. Yes, there would be worship, following a pre-recorded set from the worship team (with lyrics available to download). But things would be different.
In the Brethren tradition in which the Charis Fellowship has it’s roots, three-fold communion is an important part of pre-Easter observances. It’s an ordinance that we believe Jesus gave to the church. It’s part of the Charis Fellowship Identity statement: Communion testifies to our justification, sanctification and glorification, which are accomplished through Jesus Christ. We therefore encourage the practice of these symbols: the bread and cup, the washing of feet and the sharing of a meal.
It is an event unto itself and one that is treasured by many who have come to identify with the Brethren movement as part of their spiritual story. Over the years, I’ve experienced communion in a variety of ways — using wet-wipes for the first time as part of the foot washing on the beach, sharing “finger foods” in the sanctuary for the love feast, or being part of an international communion service at the last Charis Alliance gathering. I’ve learned every church does it differently and there aren’t prescriptions for what to serve for the love feast or how to observe the bread and the cup. (The bread can be leavened or unleavened. In our tradition, the cup is almost always grape juice.)
I’ve come to realize that the bread and the cup likely were part of the meal that Jesus shared with his disciples that evening in the upper room.
Still, when it came to planning an at-home communion, it seemed natural to want to have the traditional unleavened bread, hence the question…Anyone else thinking of making unleavened bread for communion?
The thread of responses started me on a trip down memory lane, beginning with a stop at my mother’s collection of recipes. Yes, there was a recipe for communion bread. (In fact, there were three — all pretty much the same.) I snapped a photo and added it to the collection of responses. Then I decided to go one step further and make the recipe, posting an image of the finished product along with the recipe on my personal Facebook page.
I wasn’t ready for the flood of memories (and recipes) to this simple post.
Almost all the recipes contained flour, butter, and milk, cream, or Half and Half. Most called for a “pinch of salt.” Others included sugar in varying amounts, and sometimes it was powdered sugar.
Many remembered the delicious taste of the bread, often commenting how they would seek out leftovers after communion for a snack.
One former pastor’s wife noted that for one service, they provided communion bread that included sugar in the recipe. “We had a new person complain. She thought it was too sweet. Christ’s body should not taste that sweet,” she remembered the woman commenting. “Then we just went to a homemade yeast bread.”
People posted photos of their well-used and stained cards, often bearing the name of the older woman in the church who had given them the recipe — Harriet Ashman, Mrs. Thomas Hammers, Susie Glass, and others from earlier generations in the Grace Brethren movement. Women spoke lovingly of being taught by someone to make the bread — in the Titus 2 tradition of an older woman handing down knowledge to a younger women.
Often detailed instructions were given for cutting the bread. Some were precise: “Mark dough into strips 1 1/2-inches wide. Perforate dough every 2 inches,” said one.
“Score as you like with dotted wall paper cutter. Prick with fork,” noted the instructions from another. A third included a rough sketch of how the dough should be cut, including fork pricks so it could be easily broken at the proper time.
One friend noted that her husband’s uncle had made a special rolling pin that scored the bread into pieces. “It’s been lost, unfortunately,” she reported.
It seems that the making of communion bread was reserved for the women, perhaps a testimony to the traditional roles of an earlier time, though one friend noted that it was her late husband who often made the bread for their church’s communion observance.
Regardless of the methods of making the bread, it is more important to remember that we partake of the bread and cup remember, celebrate, and proclaim the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross as Paul instructed in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.
Charis Fellowship churches believe Jesus has given his body the ordinance of Communion to continually remind us of his work in our lives. A work that is past, present, and future. It is with joy that we partake in the celebration of Three-Fold Communion as we reflect on our justification, his ongoing forgiveness of indwelling sin, and his promises that we will one day be forever with him. (from a document on Charis Beliefs found at inspirepastors.org.) – written by Liz Cutler Gates
(from Harriet Ashman, Wooster, Ohio)
7 1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 cup cream
Mix first four ingredients as pie dough. Add liquid. Knead just enough to mix but be sure it is blended. Divide into two parts and roll on floured pastry cloth into rectangle (about 10X16″). Roll evenly. Cut 10″ one way into 1 ” strips with sharp knife. Score as you like with dotted wall paper cutter. Prick with fork. Bake on ungreased sheets at 250-275 for 25-35 min. Break (or cut) into 1X2″ pieces. Store in tight container. Do not bake too fast or it will get hard. Some moisture is okay in center at testing time.
(Winona Lake, Ind., Grace Brethren Church)
2 cups sifted flour
1/4 pound butter (not margarine)
1 cup Half & Half (maybe won’t use all)
Allow butter to soften some. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut butter into flour until they resemble pea-size pieces. Pour in enough cream to make as a pie crust. (Want it to hold together well but not be extremely sticky.) Roll out (maybe 1/8-inch thick) on a floured surface. Cut into pieces about three-inches long. Mark at 1 1/2-inches for breaking line. Prick all pieces with a fork. Bake at 200-250 degrees on uncreased cookie sheet for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
The amount made by one recipe varies some with how thin or thick they are. You should get about 55-65 pieces, which would be enough for 110-130 people.
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons sugar
3/4 to 1 cup flour
Approximately 1/4 cup milk (I used cream)
Sift flour and sugar together. Cut in butter as for pie dough. Add enough milk to make a soft dough. Roll out a little thicker than for pie dough. Put on cookie sheet and score in squares. Bake in oven, 350 degrees, 15 to 20 minutes. Take out and finish cutting immediately.