The Idle American: Never substitute prune juice for grape juice during the Lord’s Supper.



This account blows holes in the old adage claiming that folks who want jobs done right should tackle ‘em themselves. Whoa, not every time. Sometimes, when the stars align with precision and all is in place for the perfect storm, delegation is critical—clearly the, uh, “prudent” thing to do.

   A high percentage of failure to delegate occurs, of course, with professionals. Clergy, in general, come to mind. Often alone at the peak of Mount Independence are ministers deeply rooted in music.

One such parson is Gerre Joiner, Associate Pastor for Senior Adults at Decatur’s First Baptist Church. For decades, he’s been involved mostly with all things musical in churches. He never saw a score whose measure he couldn’t take nor a choir that couldn’t be “choraled.”


   Graying of hair and lengthening of tooth, he’s always been a team player, eager to pull his part of the load. There are times, though, when he might be better served handing some jobs off to others, particularly when he is somewhat “out of his element.”

Speaking of elements, he wound up in a spot “neither fish nor fowl” a few weeks ago. Though he’d participated in Lord’s Supper observances from time to time, rarely had he been involved in preparation—and never for a care center observance. He was helping Pastor Ken May prepare the “travel kit”—a small valise used in such observances held away from the sanctuary. Later in the afternoon, they’d visit a local care center where some residents would participate in the Lord’s Supper.

Joiner found plenty of communion wafers, but grape juice–the other important element in the symbolic observance–was nowhere to be found.  He searched every shelf, wondering if one or more colleagues had been “taking nips.” No matter. “I’ll just run down to Dollar General and buy a bottle of grape juice,” he announced. After all, the care center visit was still an hour away.


   Minutes later, he was back, whistling as he emptied the bottle into the flask, or whatever they call travel containers for communion juice. In a matter of seconds, it would be secured in the kit, along with the wafers and tiny cups.

Luckily, administrative assistant Bree Kirklie walked through the church’s kitchen area at the precise moment Gerre was tossing the empty bottle. “What are you doing?” she questioned. “I’m replenishing grape juice in our communion kit,” he responded, wondering why she asked. She advised him to re-read the label. Retrieving the bottle, he lavished Bree with much appreciation. The label clearly read “PRUNE Juice.” (Joiner, ever the optimist–smiling with head held high–reminds me that when we see men with heads held extremely high, they’re likely not used to their bifocals.)

Thankfully, there still was time to keep the care center commitment. This time, Bree went to the store for grape juice.


   Years ago, at a small church in Oklahoma, a week-long revival broke out. There were 19 professions of faith at a church where Sunday Services typically attracted 40-50 worshipers. It was announced that following the final service, all 19 who walked the aisles would be baptized, after which the Lord’s Supper would be observed.

In-laws, cousins and others swelled attendance to more than 100, and the head deacon—a man they called “nuh-uh” because he opposed almost every proposal that cost money–had a sinking spell. He’d prepared the communion elements, and was certain there wouldn’t be enough.

He had flagging hope that at least a few of the visitors wouldn’t partake. “Nuh-uh” and fellow deacons froze, however, when they ran out of communion cups two rows from the back. The minister, sensing the shortfall, asked him to replenish from the church kitchen, even if with “kitchen glasses.”


   Time passed. Hymns were sung. Two gave testimonies. There was a cloud of uneasiness.

Finally, “Nuh-uh” reappeared, explaining that all he could find were a few plastic glasses and a handful of teabags, so they’d finish communion with tea!

At a hastily-called business meeting, deacons voted to buy two dozen more communion cups and a full gallon of grape juice. And Deacon “Nuh-uh” made the motion! (Years later, the “new” communion cups were still packaged.)


   Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Speaking inquiries/comments to: [email protected] Phone: 817-447-3872. Twitter: @donnewbury. Web site:

51qb2F8C0hL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-60,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Please click the book cover to read more about the wit and wisdom of Don Newbury in his book, When the Porch Light’s On.

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