A vicar has stopped serving wine during holy communion because of the growing number of alcoholics in his congregation.
The Reverend Paul Filmer said he didn’t want the ‘four or five’ addicts who attend his church to feel isolated during his services.
He took the unorthodox step for the first time last Sunday, using grape juice instead of red wine for everyone.
He decided against using separate wine and non-wine chalices because he wanted everyone in his 70-strong congregation to feel together.
Rev. Filmer, vicar at St Peter and St Paul Church in Yalding, Kent, said: “This is a very new thing for us and quite rare in the Church of England.
“I didn’t feel like it was fair that some of our congregation may feel excluded from everybody else.
“The feedback has been positive so far. People feel like they are doing something to help others.
“To go from a strong communion wine to grape juice has been a bit of a shock for some of my congregation.
“We want to be in communion, we want people to come together with us.”
Rev Filmer, 55, has been at the small village church for four years and has seen his congregation grow.
His action has been prompted by the church’s close association with the Kenward Trust which runs a nearby rehab centre.
The Church of England’s Canon Law states that the drink used for communion should be “….wine the fermented juice of the grape, good and wholesome.”
Rev. Filmer admitted that some of his congregation had voiced concerns that his changes had devalued the communion.
But the vicar, who was ordained in 1997 after a career in industry, argued that Jesus would want to make everyone feel welcome.
He added: “Some of my congregation have quite a devout ideology and I have spoken to a few who I thought might have a problem.
“They asked me ‘why can’t they just drink from a separate cup’ and I asked them what they thought about drinking from a separate cup themselves.
“Their response was that they would feel isolated and that sort of proved my point.
“There is the argument that Jesus used wine to deliver his communion, but my faith tells me that if Jesus was here he would want to make everybody feel welcome.”