Controversy, Communion, Welch's Grape Juice

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Welch's Grape Juice was created by a Methodist as a substitute for communion wine. Photo illustration by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications.

A Feature by Joe Iovino*
June 28, 2016
You are probably familiar with Welch’s Grape Juice, but you may not know it has ties to the history of The United Methodist Church.
In the 1800s, churches faced a dilemma. To combat the epidemic of alcoholism, the temperance movement advocated total abstinence from all alcohol. In celebration of the Lord’s Supper though, the church filled the communion chalice with wine.
Substituting grape juice seems an obvious solution. “For us today it is such common practice. We don’t know any different,” explains Adrienne Possenti, church historian at First United Methodist Church of Vineland, New Jersey.
In the 1800s, however, that was no easy task. Raw grape juice stored at room temperature—home refrigerators were not available until 1913—naturally ferments into wine. This caused a problem for congregations not wanting to use anything containing alcohol.