Faced with a growing number of gluten-intolerant parishioners, the Our Lady of Blacktip cathedral will conduct gluten-free Communions beginning Sunday morning.
The move breaks with Church tradition requiring the sacrament’s consecrated bread to contain enough wheat to still be bread.
“It was either this or stop administering the Eucharist,” said Our Lady of Blacktip’s Father Luther Augustine. “A quarter of our parishioners can’t even sniff gluten, and the numbers are climbing. There was a real worry we could cause suffering in all seven of our congregants.
“We thought transubstantiation would expunge the gluten from the host,” Augustine said. “But after little Sally Bottoms’ last bout of explosive diarrhea in the sacristy, well, that shook our faith to the core.”
The new gluten-free hosts are made from coconut flour and ground conch.
“We looked into cauliflower flour hosts, but they had to be imported,” Augustine said. “The coconut hosts we can source locally, and our hope is the conch bits draw a few more people into church.”
Reaction among parishioners has been positive.
“If I get sick from the bread, then the bread didn’t really become the body of Christ, did it?” parishioner Alison Diesel said. “And if that’s so, then the Communion’s not sticking anyway.”
Others were less enthusiastic.
“It’s a slippery slope, screwing with the tradition,” Dermott Bottoms said. “The new wafers taste like conch fritters and all, but the bishop said they won’t do. And some folks are allergic to shellfish, you know.”
Augustine was quick to ease his parishioners’ worries.
“Sure, the Vatican told us ‘no,’” Augustine said. “That’s why we switched from Roman Catholic to the Caribbean Orthodox Church. Anything goes with that crowd. And Blacktip’s a tiny Caribbean island. You can’t eat fish, you wouldn’t be here.”
The issue has sparked an unexpected debate among Blacktip Island’s theologians.
“The whole transubstantiation business’s pure Aristotelian pseudophilosophy,” said the former-Reverend Jerrod Ephesians. “We’re talking angels on the head of a pin stuff here. The fritter’s not capacious for the infinite, to paraphrase Calvin. John Calvin, not the cartoon kid.”
Augustine brushed such controversy aside.
“Spiritually, our mission’s to be as inclusive as possible,” Augustine said. “We have to reach out to everyone on the island. Future services will also be lactose free and dolphin safe.”
Most churchgoers backed the changes.
“Dermott’s the only one carping, and he’s just hacked off they might switch from wine to grape juice,” Diesel said. “God is love. And if Jesus were sitting beside me, he’d love for me not to get the squirts in church.”