Anglican Churches are increasingly offering gluten-free communion to worshippers as demand for special dietary options increases.
Most Church of England churches now keep a supply of gluten-free wafers and larger churches and cathedrals with multiple communion stations often have a designated gluten-free station, a C of E spokesman told Yahoo News UK.
Church suppliers are seeing a higher number of orders for non-gluten alternatives as the trend for avoiding wheat continues.
Church suppliers Kevin Mayhew said that gluten-free wafers are now one of their top sellers.
A spokesman said: “Sales of Gluten Free Bread has been increasing over the last few years with many churches now wanting to offer this as an alternative in their communion services.
“It’s nearly always in the top five of our wafers and it sells consistently throughout the year.
“Many churches are now aware that it’s available and will either specifically search or ask for it.”
Alan Matthews, general manager of church suppliers Charles Farris, said that demand for gluten-free wafers had gone up by 20% in the past year, driven by individuals buying them to give to churches for their personal use.
According to the bible, bread used for communion should be ‘of the best and purest wheat flour that conveniently may be gotten’.
The Church of England rules that certain types of gluten-free wafer made using specially processed wheat can be used for communion.
However some gluten-free alternatives available made from non-wheat flour should not by used in church.
Guidance on their website reads: “the only bread that may be used for the celebration of the Holy Communion is either bread made with ordinary wheat flour, or bread made with wheat flour that has been processed to reduce the amount of gluten to a low level.”
The Catholic church does not permit gluten-free bread to be used during mass.
A letter to Catholic bishops sent in July 2017 by the Vatican said that ‘hosts that are completely gluten-free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist’, but that ‘low-gluten hosts (partially gluten-free) are valid.’
In the UK 1 in 10 people now avoids gluten, and the market for ‘free-from’ products increased by 27% in 2017. Roughly 1% of the population suffers from coeliac disease.