Creating Communion, Creating Community

Making Homemade Grape Juice for Communion

by Stacy Smith

The congregation still talks about that time when the Rev. Mieke Vandersall brought her homemade juice to the communion table. “I had been canning grape jam and had a little bit left over so I followed a recipe and made grape juice. I brought it to the service the next night and really, it’s amazing. It’s like nothing you ever tasted.” This led the folks at Not So Churchy, an unconventional group of seekers that meets at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, New York, to Mieke’s apartment one Saturday afternoon to make their own communion juice. Using Concord grapes from the Union Square farmer’s market, the group spent about two hours picking, peeling, mashing, cooking and straining the grapes. Together, they created and canned the grape juice they would use at the monthly communion service for the entire year.

The idea of a community joining together to create the communion elements fits right in with the vision of this seeker service. The group celebrates communion each time they gather. Led by musicians and other creative members of the group, they learn and sing a different version of the words of institution each month. “We practice a little bit before the service, but we don’t really know how it’s going to sound! So because the entire service is created through the community and through our own voices, it made sense for us to make our own juice as well,” Mieke says.

Making grape juice can be an opportunity for fellowship in a large or small congregation, but Mieke advises that it can also be difficult. To keep the process practical, a large congregation may want to make their own juice for a healing service or special communion service. When making grape juice, make sure you have a leader who has done the process before. Ask the participants to wear old clothes, and to cover all the work surfaces to prevent staining. The juice tends to be thick, so consider diluting it with apple juice before serving at communion. And while Concord grapes are the key ingredient, they can be difficult to find. Still, Mieke says that because communion is a completely community-driven experience, making your own juice is an important part of the ritual.

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