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Chalice of wineThe Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia is quite clear that “the wine for the Eucharist should be a good quality wine.” (NZPB/HKMA page 515).

Our church will not be unique. Other Anglican churches will have a rubric or canon expressing this. It is mentioned in the Lambeth Quadrilateral: “The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself — Baptism and the Supper of the Lord — ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s Words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.”

Some, in their exegesis of this rubric, distinguishing the different levels of requirements (may, should, shall, must, does), suggest the “should” applies to the whole rubric, ie. that it “should” be wine, leaving room for non-wine. I think this is a total misreading of the English. The “should” applies only to “good quality” – there is no suggestion that it not be wine.

Some non-Anglican communities use grape juice or Ribena. It is not part of this post to critique such non-Anglican practices. Other denominations have traditions of not using wine, or not having sacraments or eucharist at all. Again, that is their own concern. Just as this post is not a discussion about how to inculturate Christ’s Eucharist into a culture and context that does not use wine.

A primary discussion about the use of wine is the issue for alcoholics.

Important point: This is not in any way a new discussion. If Anglicans (in NZ) want to alter the this agreement, there is an appropriate process for changing this. Many who insist on our agreements in another sphere happily ignore this agreement. If you want to change this agreement, you know what to do.

What about those who are alcoholics or who do not want to drink alcohol? There are several options that I have seen:

  • Some decide to drink a sip of the wine in this particular case
  • Some take the chalice, hold it, in that moment give thanks for the period they have been sober, do not drink, and pass the chalice back
  • Some intinct
  • I have recently seen someone receive the bread, touch it against the chalice and eat the bread
  • It is possible to get alcohol-free wine, even good quality alcohol-free wine

Once consecrated, Anglicans, in our agreement, only have two options with what to do with the (bread and) wine:

Any remaining consecrated bread and wine, unless required for the communion of persons not present, is consumed at the end of the distribution, or immediately after The Dismissal of the Community. (NZPB/HKMA page 516)

Again, you may wish to do something else (other than consuming it or reserving it for the communion of persons not present), but, if so, you need to go through the proper process to change our agreement.

A third issue around the (bread and) wine, that I observe from time to time, concerns our agreement that

Care should be taken to ensure that sufficient bread and wine is placed on the holy table for the administration of communion to the people. (page 516)

Sometimes people want to follow the (often-laudable) practice of having a single bread, and a single cup on the altar for the Eucharistic Prayer. But then, at communion time, more wine (and bread) is brought from the credence to be distributed. Those who hold to a “consecration theology” then end up playing a shell game trying to receive from the chalice with consecrated wine in it. Sometimes those distributing have been poorly trained and formed; when they run out of wine they just go and fill up more from the unconsecrated wine at the credence. This has included clergy.

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