Monday, September 30, 2013

Alcohol-free wine served communicants at St Peter and St Paul's, Yalding, in Kent, now receive non-alcoholic wine, in deference to the residents of a rehabilitation centre situated near by.

The PCC of the church voted in July to approve the change, and it has been in place since 1 September. 

The Vicar of Yalding with Collier Street, the Revd Paul Filmer, is Chaplain to the Kenward Trust, which runs a rehabilitation centre for men seeking to overcome addiction to alcohol and drugs. 

The residents of the centre are encouraged to attend the church, which is less than a mile away. 

This month, Mr Filmer said that, since his arrival in Yalding in 2009, he had been considering ways in which these congregants could take communion without drinking alcohol.

"We had two options: to have an alternative non-alcoholic communion wine for those who preferred it, or to serve non-alcoholic wine to everyone. After much prayer and thought, we went for the latter as a more inclusive way forward, and one which will not in any way stigmatise any members of the congregation."

The chief executive of the Kenward Trust, Angela Painter, said that the residents were "very flattered that the church has decided to go down this very supportive route. In the past, some of our residents would have had concerns about the risks involved in taking of the Holy Communion wine, and may have also felt uncomfortable by not doing so. This way, they will be treated just the same as all other members of the congregation."

Mr Filmer is using non-alcoholic wine from Frank Wright Mundy & Co., which is produced exclusively for the purposes of holy communion. 

Mr Filmer said that "de- alcoholised" wine had been rejected "as it still contains 0.5-per-cent alcohol content. Offering this as totally non-alcoholic was seen to be dishonest and undermining of the Kenward Trust objectives of absolute abstinence."

Canon B 17 of the Church of England stipulates that communion wine should be "the fermented juice of the grape, good and wholesome". 

Notes to the Celebration of Holy Communion at Home or in Hospital in Common Worship: Pastoral Services states that "Communion should normally be received in both kinds separately, but where necessary may be received in one kind, whether of bread or, where the communicant cannot receive solid food, wine."

Mr Filmer said: "The letter of the law gives us a fixed reference from which to exercise the spirit of the law. I am pleased that our church council has decided to use this opportunity to love our neighbours as ourselves."

On Tuesday, he said that no negative comments had been received from members of the congregation.

A statement from the diocese of Rochester, on Wednesday, said that the Bishop, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, who is a Patron of the Kenward Trust, "fully understands and supports the desire of Revd Paul Filmer and his PCC to respond pastorally to the needs of those seeking to overcome alcohol dependency".

Of canon law, the statement said that "there may have been some lack of clarity about the interpretation of this requirement, but there are pastorally sensitive ways in which to respond to the particular needs of this group of parishioners. The Bishop will be working with Revd Filmer and his PCC to find a good way forward for all concerned."