On taking communion: why it’s okay to make crunching noises

On taking communion: why it’s okay to make crunching noises January 14, 2015

Bread and Wine #1. Photo courtesy KHRawlings via Flickr Creative Commons.
Bread and Wine #1. Photo courtesy KHRawlings via Flickr Creative Commons.

It may not seem like it, but this is a question of serious theological import: it is definitely okay — no, more than merely ‘okay,’  it is meet and right and your bounden duty to audibly chew your communion bread in church.

When I was a very small girl — no older than five or six — a young woman in our church, who I liked and admired a great deal, made an offhand comment, in reference to taking communion, that I have never forgotten:

“I always feel weird, crunching in church. I sort of try to suck on the bread until it melts away. I mean. CHEWING IN CHURCH.”

She said it in such a way that I knew that chewing in church was a pretty uncouth, rather revolting thing to do.

For nearly a quarter of a century I have thought of this phrase literally every single time I take communion. And though I was raised Baptist, I’ve been more or less a worshiping Episcopalian for nearly a decade which means I take communion a lot.

So what this means is that every time I have taken communion, I have been at least a tiny bit distracted from the meaning of the sacrament and given at least a little thought and effort into not crunching.

Despite having written a whole book on food and God and how maybe we can enjoy food as a gift from God without buying into all the angst around food our culture serves up daily, I never gave any thought to my weird little habit of letting the bread dissolve in my mouth until a few weeks ago.

Crunch crunch crunch.

As people returned from the communion rail, they passed our pew, and for some reason I was unusually aware of the crunching sound they made as they chewed the bread.

It didn’t fill me with revulsion at all. It didn’t seem uncouth.

Instead, it made me realize that I had been missing out.

For nearly a quarter of a century,I have been trying to eat the bread without doing the thing that eating typically requires, which is to say: CHEWING.

As I said, I believe this is a theological problem.

In trying not to chew in church, I have been, in effect, trying not to eat in church, and therefore denying the intentional, significant earthiness of the sacrament. Christ’s body. Broken for you. Eat this. Remember me.

And also:

Your body, which needs food. Which needs to chew and salivate and secrete and digest and process this bread in all kinds of ways that are not always considered acceptable to speak about: here, in church, your needs — your body’s needs — are acknowledged.

By all means, if you make noise when you chew, go on in so doing. Your chewing, crunching, salivating, secreting, decaying, beautiful body is God’s home.



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