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Parish History Notes 20: The Bread & The Wine

Rules of the Church of England (Canon XX of 1604) specified the use of “a sufficient quantity of fine white bread and a good wholesome wine” for the sacrament of Holy Communion. Household bread, in the shape of loaves or rolls, was used from the days of the Chapel in the Forks through most of the nineteenth century.  By the turn of the twentieth century the household bread had been replaced by the familiar wafer-bread.  Today the Cavanagh Company of Greenville, Rhode Island, produces 20 million wafers per week, still following historical liturgical guidelines.

Claret, or simply “red wine” to most church officials, was traditionally used as the communion beverage.  The wine was served in an “unmixed chalice,” meaning water would not be added.  Interestingly, there is one known exception to the claret rule. Madeira was used at Fork Church for a period of time around 1760.  In the 1970s a Madeira communion was offered by Rev. Charles Joy in commemoration of this unique circumstance.