August 15th is a day awaited with great expectations by the members of the Pentecostal Church of Chile in Curicó. It is the day in which the central church gathers with all of the “daughter” churches from the surrounding areas to celebrate communion. About 3000 people take communion together on that day and most will begin to prepare one or two weeks in advance by participating in special services, fasting, and prayer vigils. Since communion day only comes once a year for the Curicó Church (yes, once a year for all of you Disciples!), it is a very special day. Bishop Ulises Muñoz welcomes new members into the church and baptizes adults who have either never been baptized or who want to recommit to following Christ. (The Pentecostal Church of Chile practices infant baptism.) Many people come forward to receive healing prayers by laying on of hands. There are many testimonies of miraculous healings on Communion Day as well as answers to other prayers.
Even though Chilean wines are famous worldwide, the members of the Pentecostal Church of Chile are teetotalers. This presents a problem when it comes to communion. In a country where wine production is an important industry, it is nearly impossible to buy grape juice. I asked an agriculture expert once why there isn’t any grape juice in Chile; no grape jam, jelly or ice cream either, for that matter. She told me that it is because the kinds of grapes that are sold in Chile are not appropriate for juice or jelly; one must grow Concord Grapes for that purpose. I suspect that since wine sells for more that juice or jelly, most growers don’t even bother with the latter.
Since there isn’t any grape juice available, the pastors, and most often the pastors’ wives or pastoras, prepare their own wine recipes for communion. They make sure to cook off all of the alcohol and then add their own secret ingredients.
Everyone in the Pentecostal Church of Chile participates in communion, from the tiny babies who aren’t yet walking to the bed ridden elders in the Bethany Home. In Curicó, as in most churches of this denomination, the children must wait until the very end, after everyone else has been served, before they come to the table. It is a memorable moment when hundreds of squirming children of all ages come forward and wait in line, their eyes bright with curiosity and excitement. Each drinks from the common cup and partakes of the bread. It is truly an exclusion- free celebration!
In Curicó, where there are so many people, there are about 10 communion stations covered by the officers (equivalent to Elders and Deacons) of the church and guest pastors and pastoras. The Bishop and his wife, Pastora Isabel, preside at the main table and lead the prayers and responses for the whole congregation.
I asked Pastora Isabel if she would be willing to share with you the wine recipe that she has been using for the past forty years. I noticed that Global Ministries has several bread recipes, including two from Chile, but no instructions for the preparation of wine. May this recipe bring the flavor of Communion Sunday of the Pentecostal Church of Chile, with its faith, hope, and joyous celebration to your experience of World Communion Sunday.
Pastora Isabel Ramírez’s Communion Wine Recipe
1 quart or liter of red wine
10 ½ ounces of sugar or 300 grams of sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
2 pieces of fresh orange rind (Make sure it is just the very outside of the rind. If the white part of the rind is included, it will make the wine bitter.)
Put the wine in a covered sauce pan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the cinnamon sticks, the orange rind, and the sugar. Boil for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the stove and allow to cool. Strain to remove the cinnamon sticks.
I asked Pastora Isabel how much wine would come from a liter once the alcohol was boiled off, and she said, “a lot less!” The Curicó Church buys about 75 quarts of wine for Communion Sunday. Imagine the stories told by the fun-loving, tee-totaling officers of the church when they put in their order at the local liquor store! Pastora Isabel added another recommendation, “make sure that everyone knows the day you will be preparing for communion in the church kitchen or rumors will spread along with the pungent smell of boiling wine!”
Elena Huegel, a member of Iglesia Cristiana Ebenezer, Los Fresnos, Texas, serves the Pentecostal Church of Chile (IPC). She is an environmental and Christian education specialist.