I’ve been gluten free for a long time, but over the
last year, I’ve developed more and more restrictive food limitations.
The biggest problem has been corn in nearly all its forms: corn starch,
corn meal but also dextrose, maltodextrin, vinegars, natural flavors. I
planned substitutions for holiday meals and I prepped ahead for all
sorts of events, one-on-one and more group oriented. I intentionally
made plans with friends between meals instead of during meals and I
packed food for just about every step outside the house. I and others
chopped vegetables about every day (or that’s what it felt like). I put
extra tea bags in every bag I carried and I stocked up on non-perishable
safe foods. I spent so much time figuring out food and medications and
how I’d deal with my flight being delayed or cancelled that I arrived
home for the holidays and discovered I hadn’t packed enough clothes.
But back to Christmas Eve. As we were sitting in the sanctuary
waiting for the music to shift from rehearsal to worship, I skimmed the
bulletin. Communion. I hadn’t planned for communion.
At home I work most Saturday and Sunday nights, so it’s been awhile
since I participated in communion. I was initially pleased and then
just as quickly crestfallen. Sometimes churches offer only gluten free
bread at communion, though with my new limited diet I probably wouldn’t
have chanced it. So after a lot of whispering between siblings, I went
ahead and “took” communion with everyone else, but I took it back to our
pew and let my brother eat it. (My sister joked that people might think
he was just unwilling to get his own.) I’ve learned over the last few
years that food issues are just hard to navigate, especially in big
groups, but the more we’re supposed to follow certain rules or have a
certain experience (from communion in worship to popcorn at the movies),
the more being left out by default can be so isolating.
We need more than elevators and handicapped parking. We need to
start asking different questions and keep asking until we’ve
accommodated everyone. Though I came up with a fairly creative solution
in time for our communion, who among us needs another barrier between
ourselves and communion, or the church community?
Cassidy McFadden is a registered nurse living in
Asheville, North Carolina. She has fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and a
host of new allergies. She's a member of the Highland Avenue Church of
the Brethren in Elgin, Illinois and attends the Mill Creek Church of the
Brethren in Tryon, North Carolina.