This reflection was first delivered by Murray Krushel at the November 18, 2016 session of our Story Exchange series. The recipe Murray uses can be accessed by clicking here. The photograph on this post is by Sarah Hodges-Kolisnyk, and is used with permission.
Trying to recall when I decided to make communion bread, I found my memory was a bit fuzzy. I checked with Jamie and he remembered me mentioning the idea to him at my 60th birthday celebration in our back yard, so that goes back to 2008. Quite likely I was beginning to think about retirement at that time (that is my first retirement which took place June 30/09). I know I was thinking about things I might do when I retired and one of the things was baking bread for our own family’s use.
If we go back to Oct 2004 when Audrey and I began attending SBT, I believe it was in my first conversation with Jamie, I said something along the line…I have no intention of ever serving on a board or committee at SBT. Prior to coming to SBT I had served on numerous committees and boards over the years. It was however my very challenging experiences serving on an elder board at a previous church (ending in 2003) that contributed in a major way to a burnout I experienced and therefore the decision to stay away from boards and committees specifically those associated with a church. Sometime later I let Jamie know I was available to read scripture or be a communion assistant, if there was the opportunity.
Going back to my early childhood years, I recall that communion was served once a year at Easter. Given this infrequency, it was quite mysterious to me as a young child. I can picture the lace table cloth placed over the bread which was located on a table in front of the pulpit. The bread was made by a particular lady in our church, her name was Mrs. Endert. As a child, I could not participate in the receiving of the bread and grape juice but following the service, when the congregation was mingling and chatting, I remember sneaking up to that table, lifting the lace table cloth and looking at the bread that was remaining, then eating some of the pieces. It tasted so very different from any bread we had at home and it looked very different. In fact the shape of the loaves were very similar to the shape of the loaves I now make, which is quite interesting in and of itself.
Fast forward to 2004 when Audrey and I began attending SBT and we found ourselves participating in liturgical worship where communion happened weekly and became the focal point of the service and not the sermon. We heard words of welcome, come to the table, but do not feel obligated….interesting. The words….sacred mysteries…new words to us. And referring back to what I said at the beginning, as a child communion being mysterious but mysterious then and sacred mysteries now, very different. We heard the word…feast….also unfamiliar to us. And Jamie has often encouraged a good gulp of wine not just a sip and a substantive piece of bread linking the experience to feasting.
With my first retirement in 2009, I did begin making bread for our family’s use. And quite likely at that time I began making communion bread as well, although I don’t remember specifically. Prior to 2009, I had for many years baked our Christmas Stollen and Easter bread as well as muffins for Sunday breakfast. So I was familiar with baking. I searched the internet for communion bread recipes and found a couple. I remember trying them and telling Jamie when I brought the loaves to church, still experimenting. I believe it was in the Fall of 2009 when I connected with a lady who was a visitor at a Sunday evening service. Not sure how the conversation began but it ended with her telling me she made communion bread also and referred me to a recipe. It was a Lutheran Seminary recipe and was made with spelt flour ( I use organic spelt flour only as well spelt contains less gluten compared to regular flour). The other ingredients were salt, baking powder, molasses, honey, organic olive oil and boiling water. The lady provided some tips like, spelt flour is very different from white flour, knead it sparingly. The water measurement was 1 cup plus 2 Table spoons, follow this closely she said. I made one change in the recipe and substituted the honey with maple syrup, easier to work with. I do remember bringing the first loaves of the new recipe to church and telling Jamie, yes this is it, I’m satisfied.
Over the years I’ve made two changes in how I make the bread. I now use a silicon pastry sheet (no more messy oiled wax paper). And Audrey found a rolling pin with guides which allowed the dough to be rolled evenly. A number of times over the years, Audrey and I have said, that communion bread would really go well with this particular meal but then we go onto say, yes, but it wouldn’t seem right, so we have never done it.
With time, I now know how the dough needs to feel before shaping it into loaves. It can’t be sticky and it can’t be too dry which means from time to time I need to add a very small amount of spelt flour or boiling water to the ball of dough to bring it to the right consistency. As Audrey has pointed out, dough texture is impacted by humidity.
So from serving at a board or committee table to making the bread we share around the table, two ways of serving. That said, I find bread making a very peaceful way to begin a Sunday morning.