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Most United Methodists are aware that one of our practices is the use of unfermented juice of the grape for Holy Communion. While some other Protestant bodies share this practice, the possibility of the practice goes back to the late 19th century and a Methodist dentist named Thomas Bramwell Welch.

Apparently Welch had scruples about the use of wine and had heard of Louis Pasteur’s process of pasteurization of milk. Welch was successful in applying the process to grape juice, and he began to use it in his church, where he was a Communion steward. His son, Dr. Charles Welch, was an enterprising Methodist layman (a dentist, like his father) from southern New Jersey. He marketed the pasteurized grape juice to temperance-minded evangelical Protestants as authentic biblical “wine.” As word spread and as the temperance movement grew among evangelical Protestant churches, Welch left dentistry and produced Welch’s Grape Juice commercially.


The 1964 Book of Worship rubric is emphatic: “The pure, unfermented juice of the grape shall be used.” Note that the current ritual texts and rubrics in our Hymnal and Book of Worship do not explicitly define what form of the fruit of the grape shall be used. The United Methodist Book of Worship does recognize that .. .

o the historic and ecumenical practice has been the use of wine

o the use of the unfermented grape juice by The United Methodist Church and its predecessors is an expression of pastoral concern for recovering alcoholics, enables the participation of children and youth, and supports the church’s witness of abstinence.


SOURCES: 1964 Book of Worship, page 28.

Changing Wine into Grape Juice: Thomas and Charles Welch and the Transition to Unfermented Fruit of the Vine

by Daniel Benedict (from UMC Worship Web page)


(See http://www.welchs.com/company/company_history.html.)

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