I’ve been staying away from church for a number of reasons. I walked away from my church of 25 years over a year ago because of a priest and some church members who thought that buildings were more important than people, but that is another story and lots of water long gone under a bridge. I started attending my son’s church because I loved his minister and because I enjoy my son’s part in the praise band, but after that favorite minister left, I began spending more weekends in another town staying at Bean’s and sometimes attending his church, but overall, mostly hopping back and forth between those two churches. Then RA struck, and I became angry and depressed and yes, maybe God was sometimes a target. Fast forward to 6 months ago, when I realize that gluten is poison to my body and that quitting it heals my eczema, alleviates some of the pain in my joints, and may help mend the leaky gut that might have led me down the autoimmune path in the first place, and my newest reason to stay away from church is… I’m allergic to God.
I mean, really, come on… first there was the God the Father thing that is so hard for children who have abandonment issues or who have been abused by their father figure, and now, well, this sort of feels like abandonment, too. I went back to St. Mark’s this summer and picked a perfect day for it as Bishop Curry was in the house and rockin’ it with one of his energetic and engaging sermons, but when it came time to come to the table so to speak, I was excluded. The liturgy invites us to come, to eat, it shares the words of Christ, “take eat, this is my body which is given for you… do this in remembrance of me.” I used to be a lay minister. When the priest hands you the host, he or she says “this is the body of Christ, the bread of heaven.” So, sitting there, I felt and I feel separate now from God. I am gluten intolerant. I am God intolerant. His body is poison to my body. That is heavy stuff right there.
At Bean’s church they have gluten free crackers for people like me. We have to ask for them, though, and I don’t like that. I don’t want to be singled out. I don’t like being that girl, a problem, a food nut, high maintenance…. I don’t want to bring attention to myself that way. When I told my old friend at St. Mark’s the reason I didn’t come to the altar that day, he said okay, like he was confused about why I might have told him this. I was telling him this, because I wanted to come back. I want to be welcome at that table again. I want to be able to come to the table and not have to cross my arms to receive a blessing only. I don’t want to be allergic to God. At our church, we use these pressed wafers. Why not have them all gluten free. You can barely tell they are bread anyhow. I wonder if the body of God had gluten when Jesus broke bread with his disciples at The Last Supper? I can eat many ancient grains- teff, amaranth, millet.
It’s estimated that 1% of the population has celiac disease. That’s not a huge percentage, but that is a good number of people who find themselves unwelcome at God’s table. It’s food for thought. Churches might consider this when deciding if they are inclusive and welcoming. It’s just one more thing, and it might not seem like a big deal, but it feels big to me.