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Brethren Communion Bread

Updated on April 16, 2014

Best Communion Bread Recipes in the Brethren Tradition

I was born into the Church of the Brethren, a Christian denomination that started in 1708 in Schwarzenau, Germany during the Protestant Reformation under the leadership of my ancestor, Alexander Mack.

Early in the life of the Church of the Brethren and other related Brethren groups who trace their roots back to Mack was a wonderful celebration: The Love Feast (sometimes known as the Agape Feast). The Love Feast is a reenactment of the last supper Jesus Christ shared with His disciples before His arrest, trial, crucifixion, and (praise God!) resurrection. The Love Feast has four parts to it: Examen, Footwashing, Agape (sometimes known as Common Meal or Fellowship Meal), and Communion (Unleavened Bread and Wine or Grape Juice).

In this lens I will share some of the published Brethren communion bread recipes, starting with my favorite to make. I will also share some songs and hymns that are sung at Love Feast when the Brethren gather around the table together to celebrate Holy Communion. Please stop by at the end of the lens and leave a greeting for others to enjoy.

Bread and Cup prepared for Love Feast
Bread and Cup prepared for Love Feast

When I was a kid, I looked forward to the Love Feast. Only baptized believers are allowed to take Communion at my home church, but children who had not yet been baptized were still invited to sit at the table, enjoy the footwashing and fellowship meal, and observe the Communion. Even before I was baptized at age 10, I would sit there and be in awe at the simplicity of the meal, the reverence of the church members, the beauty of the candlelight, the harmonies of the a capella hymns, and anticipation for two things. I anticipated the day I would be old enough to really commit my life to Christ in a knowing way and be baptized, because then I could partake of Communion with the saints. But until then, I anticipated the meal being done so that I could forage for Communion Bread scraps! Me and the other kids would raid the church kitchen when services ended for any of the edge pieces that had been discarded from table use. The bread was so good! It has a shortbread consistency, and a little sweetness to it. It's chewy and filling (and great dipped in raspberry jam or honey!).

I was baptized on October 2, 1988 along with my brother Mike and my two close friends Missy and Jaci. That night was our Fall Love Feast, and at age 10, as a newly baptized confessing Christian, I was allowed to take Holy Communion. I sat next to my mom and broke the bread with her. It was a solemn event, and I was filled with admiration and appreciation for Jesus as I tasted this bread that represented His sacrifice for me on the cross at Calvary.

Of course, after Love Feast was done, we kids still went to the kitchen to get more.

My Favorite Communion Bread Recipe - by Mrs. Deffenbaugh & Mrs. Mosholder

This communion bread recipe is actually two recipes combined and adapted for small church use. Both original recipes will also be listed as published in the Brethren Heritage Cookbook.

  • 1 c. milk
  • 4 T. butter, room temperature, cut into pats.
  • 1-2 T. granulated sugar
  • Dash of salt
  • 2-3 c. all-purpose flour
  • Begin with 2 cups of flour in a large mixing bowl. Using a fork, stir in milk, sugar, and salt, Mix thoroughly until flour absorbs liquid. Drop in butter pats a few at a time and mix in with fork. The dough will be sticky. Add 1/4 c. of flour at a time until the dough can be kneaded by hand and pulls cleanly away from the edge of the bowl. If too thick, add a little more milk.
  • When dough is dense enough to roll, put lump of dough on a floured surface or on baker's plastic (fold the plastic over the dough), and roll out the dough to 1/4" thickness. Cut the dough into 1 1/2" strips, then using a five-tined fork (or 3-tined fork plus 2-tined meat fork), perforate the center of the dough down the strip every two inches.
  • Transfer onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350F until lightly browned, approximately 10-12 minutes. Wrap in a damp cloth to keep it soft until used. Can be stored up to 3 months in a tightly sealed freezer container.

Why the Five Holes?

The five holes represent the five ways/places Jesus' Body was pierced:

Lashing, Thorns, Hands, Feet, and Side.

Back of the Bread

Back of the bread is the flour

And back of the flour is the mill

And back of the mill

is the sun and the rain

And the Father's will.

By Skip Ober Miller
By Skip Ober Miller

Mrs. Deffenbaugh's Recipe

From Geiger Church of the Brethren

3 pts milk

1 lb butter

Flour to make dough

Add enough flour to butter and milk to make dough similar to pie dough. Divide into four parts and work each part until it blisters. Roll out in sheets and cut in strips about the width of a ruler, cutting lengthwise. Using a fork and toothpick or 5-tined fork, mark a line about every two inches. Bake at 400F until lightly browned. Makes enough for 200 members. Note: Some add 2 cups powdered sugar to the dough mixture.

Father Washes Daughter's Feet at Love Feast
Father Washes Daughter's Feet at Love Feast

Mrs. Mosholder's Memorial Recipe

Roxbury Church of the Brethren

11 c. pastry flour

1 lb. confectioner's sugar

1 lb. butter

Milk for liquid

Sift and measure sugar and flour. Add softened butter and mix well. Add enough milk to make it a little stiffer than pie dough. Divide into 2 portions and work each about 10 minutes. Roll enough portion of dough 1/8" thick to fill 1 cookie sheet. Mark dough in strips 1 1/4" wide. Perforate dough every 2 inches with fork. Bake in oven at 350F until lightly browned. Wrap in damp cloth until needed to keept soft.

The Invitation to Partake

Leader: I invite you to join me in a declaration of faith as we prepare to break the bread.

Congregation: The bread that we break is the communion of the body of Christ.

L: I invite you to join me in a declaration of faith as we prepare to partake of the cup.

C: The cup that we bless is the communion of the blood of Christ.

Bryan First Brethren
Bryan First Brethren

Let Us Break Bread Together

Let us break bread together on our knees

Let us break bread together on our knees

When I fall on my knees

With my face to the rising sun

Oh, Lord, have mercy on me!

Let us drink wine together on our knees

Let us drink wine together on our knees

When I fall on my knees

With my face to the rising sun

Oh, Lord, have mercy on me!

Let us praise God together on our knees

Let us praise God together on our knees

When I fall on my knees

With my face to the rising sun

Oh, Lord, have mercy on me!

(Traditional African-American Spiritual)

Brethren Communion Poll

Have you ever attended a Love Feast or something like it?

See results

Toni washing her 90-yr-old Dad's feet at Love Feast 2013

Toni washing her 90-yr-old Dad's feet at Love Feast 2013
Toni washing her 90-yr-old Dad's feet at Love Feast 2013

More Recipes from around the Denomination--Featured in the CoB Deacon Manual for Caring Ministries - From Ladera Church of the Brethren, Los Angeles, CA

My Deacon Manual
My Deacon Manual

6 c. flour

2 T. sugar

1/2 lb. butter

1/2 lb. whipping cream

Sift flour and mix sugar in a large bowl. Cut in butter until it forms a fine meal-like texture. Stir in whipping cream. Mixture will be very stiff and crumbly. Divide into four parts and knead half an hour on a lightly floured board. Preheat oven to 400F. Spread dough evenly, about 3/8 inch thick on two flat cookie cheets. Score into 3/4 inch squares and prick each section with fork tines. Reduce oven temp to 300F when cookie sheets are put in. Bake at least one hour (will not look real done as it does not brown). Cut immediately along the scored lines into single or double sections, depending on the service.

From Florin Church of the Brethren, Mount Joy, PA

7 lb. flour

2 lb. butter

5 large or 6 medium eggs

2 T. salt

1 qt. milk

Mix the flour, softened butter, and salt until fine. Beat the eggs and milk together and add to flour mixture. Mix well and if too dry, add milk slowly as needed. Divide into nine parts, each weighing one to one and a half pounds. Knead for 10-15 minutes until very soft and pliable.

Roll with rolling pin to the size of 8 1/2 inch by 11 1/2 inch. Mark for pieces with scored rolling pin. Using a fork, prick each piece with five marks across and five down. Bake in a 425F oven for 20 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and let cool. When cool, place bread on top of each other and wrap in cloth then cover with damp cloth. Place in refrigerator and check daily until used. We usually bake this bread on a Tuesday evening for a Maundy Thursday Love Feast and Friday evening for a Sunday Love Feast.

Call to Worship for Love Feast - by Mark Flora Swick

Love Feast, A Life In Christ, Cape Coral 2011
Love Feast, A Life In Christ, Cape Coral 2011

Jesus says..."Take and eat,"

Calling us to share in his life.

An invitiation to intimacy, to love, to communion.

Jesus says..."My burden is light,"

Calling us to a journey of discipleship.

An invitation to follow, to learn, to grow.

Jesus says..."Even unto the least of these,"

Calling us to compassion.

An invitation to do justice, to walk the way of peace.

Jesus says..."Like a mustard seed,"

Calling us to look for the kingdom.

An invitation to experience God in our midst, here in this moment.

The First Love Feast

The very first Love Feast was recorded by the gospel writer and disciple, John.

You can read about it in John 13:1-17

You can learn about the Lord's Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Jesus' trial, crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection

are recorded in all four gospels:

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

Everything You Wanted to Know About... - The Brethren Faith Communities

The Church of the Brethren is just one of many groups that trace heritage back to Alexander Mack. Here are links to other denominations that share our common heritage.

Every church has their own traditions and rituals surrounding the observance of Eucharist/Holy Communion/Love Feast/Agape Meal/Bread & Cup.

Do you attend a church that offers communion? Would you ever try one of these tasty communion bread recipes for your family worship or your faith community?

Have you tried Brethren Communion Bread?

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    • profile image

      Annonymous 22 months ago

      Surprised to see in your church that men wash women's feet and the other way around. That is not practice in our church.

    • profile image

      Lynda L. 2 years ago

      Thank you for your favorite communion bread. My mother in law and my family were from the Church of the Brethren. She passed down this recipe (or very similar to it) years ago. I added it to my computer and of course it crashed without a back up. I was heartbroken. Her old recipe called for "butter the size of a large egg". I know it's fairly simple to remember but I just wasn't sure of everything. Thanks again.

    • profile image

      Stephanie R 2 years ago

      My grandparents are very traditional Brethern my great grandparents where Mennonite as are my great aunts . My grandparents raised me so I saw most of the traditions . It still leaves me in awe looking back through the years at everything from how the older men sat on one side and the women on another . I still attend very rarely but I do Love the old hymes and how it makes my heart So Happy . To this day I am still looking for a home church with that home feel . I just don't believe in all the older things like having to wear a dress or a covering at all times . Thank You for this lovely walk down memory lane . God Bless

    • profile image

      jen09 writes 3 years ago

      I am fundamental Baptist and we have communion quarterly. I have actually never heard of the Brethren's so I will be doing some research. I love learning about other denominations and their beliefs. THanks for sharing

    • profile image

      WinWriter 3 years ago

      This is so interesting to read about. I can remember singing that song "Let us break bread together..." in church. God bless!

    • profile image

      fotolizard 3 years ago

      I like communion bread made like this. I grew up Brethren and have been to several Love Feasts. Nice lens about it.

    • Erin Mellor profile image

      Erin Mellor 3 years ago from Europe

      I've never tried this kind of communion, it looks an interesting tradition - my youth was filled with communion wafers, rather dull in comparison.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      The bread recipe sure does sound like shortbread and I can see why you loved it so much as a child.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      This is a beautiful practice.

    • profile image

      Auriel 4 years ago

      Great lens.

    • profile image

      seosmm 4 years ago

      Very nice lens! ~Blessed~

    • Demaw profile image

      Demaw 4 years ago

      I had a relative who was a Brethren, always interested in learning more.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Hi, Leah! I really enjoyed this lens. I plan on learning more about the Brethren.

    • profile image

      Donnette Davis 4 years ago from South Africa

      I have learned much from you, thank you for this interesting lens. I have not heard of this denomination previously. Blessed by a squid angel x

    • tvyps profile image

      Teri Villars 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I have never heard of this denomination. I take Communion at home because I don't think that most churches give it often enough. Blessed.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Very interesting, the bread must be extra delicious.

    • choosehappy profile image

      Vikki 4 years ago from US

      I participate in communion but I've never made the bread; the older ladies of our church do this. Excellent description of this tradition ;)

    • profile image

      Simbaa 4 years ago

      your lens certainly looks wonderful, not to consider how good is your info...

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image

      Kay 4 years ago

      We had a similar bread at our old church. Our new church just uses crackers and while it is the idea that matters, I do admit to missing the bread! Very interesting page! Blessed.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      I haven't, but it seems like quite an interesting tradition.

    • Kumar P S profile image

      Kumar P S 4 years ago

      Great Lens ! Very well Presented.

    • Monica Ranstrom profile image

      Monica Ranstrom 5 years ago

      Really nice lens!

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Very good info, and very nicely presented, as well. Thank you so much for sharing - blessed by a SquidAngel.

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Lovely lens. Thanks for commenting on my Poems of Loss. God has recently called me to a new ministry, taking funeral services. It is a great honour to be used by him like this. blessed.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      My grandmother was a dunkard and I am trying to find out more about her faith. When she died after being in nursing home for yrs she was buried in a black dress and bonnet which she arranged with the funeral director years before she was ever sick. I never knew she was a dunkard till later. She was wonderful to me and I loved her very much.