A number of years ago, as a congregation we abandoned the practice of serving grape juice in communion and began serving wine. This was not an incidental change, because we also moved from observing communion monthly to the practice of observing it at the culmination of each service. Although we did this, we also reserved the center of each tray for some grape juice—the point being to avoid stumbling those who had private scruples over the issue of wine.
In just a few weeks, after the first of the year, the trays will be filled entirely with wine. Grape juice will still be available, but it will be in the back, in the same way that we have special bread there for those who have a problem with gluten.
The reason we have done this so slowly, over the course of years, is because the Lord’s Supper is a partaking of Christ, it is fellowship in His love. By making changes in our previous practice, we did not want to do so in a way that would introduce any new quarrels into the Church. We believe that there are scriptural problems with alcohol-free communion services, but they are minor problems compared with the scriptural problem of love-free communion services. The former misses the liturgical and typological point; the latter misses the point, period. And so we have wanted to bear with one another as we made such changes.
But we have not retained our compromise as a permanent fixture because this would deny the point of reformation, which is simply another word for corporate sanctification. The point is to grow up into Christ. The point is not to maintain settled misperceptions of Him to the end of the world, and call it conservatism.
And so the elders urge you—continue to bear with one another in love. If fifty years ago you promised your dying mother that you would never touch alcohol, there will be grape juice in the back, hassle-free, and God bless you. A handful may drink grape juice. The congregation as a whole will drink wine. But all of us must still drink love.