The Day Ella Black Put Wine in the Lord’s Supper
Growing up in a Fundamentalist faith had its moments of fun, especially with practical jokers. A distant cousin of mine by marriage, Ella Black, was one such trickster — the Loki of the Stewart Creek Church of Christ. When I was a small boy she liked to flick my ears during the service — and she also flicked my younger sister’s ears. That hurt, but she was an older adult, and there was little I could do other than tell Mama — and what was she to do? Tell Ella Black to stop flicking children’s ears?
In that church we had the Lord’s Supper using tiny glass communion cups in a tray along with the crackers the adults called “unleavened bread.” It looked like crackers, tasted like crackers, and to me, that’s what it was. Since the church was anti-drinking alcohol, Welch’s Grape Juice was used for the Lord’s Supper. Once I was baptized and could participate in the Lord’s Supper, I liked to drink the grape juice in the little cup.
One day when the communion grape juice was distributed, people started making faces. Lips turned inside out, heads turned to look at other heads to judge their reactions, and I wondered what was going on. when the cup came to me I drank, and it was the worst tasting grape juice I had drunk in my entire life. It stung my tongue, my throat, and had a strangely bitter taste. Did someone change brands of grape juice? If I had known who Torquemada was, I might have labeled it Torquemada Grape Juice, the “Grape Juice of the Inquisitors.” After church tongues wagged until the source of the anomaly was identified: Ella Black. Her job was to prepare the Lord’s Supper, and instead of Welch’s Grape Juice, she poured wine into those little cups. We all sinned at once, taking of the devil’s drink while thinking we were worshipping God! How horrible! Ella Black had damned us to hell, laughing all the way.
Of course there was nothing really wrong with wine in the Lord’s Supper, but in that environment, it was a demonic thing. Yet people passed it off, saying, “That’s just Ella Black.” Years later, long after Ella Black had departed to her reward, one of the oldest members of my extended family told my aunt, “That Ella Black. There will only be one Ella Black.” I’m sure every member of my childhood church who was present that Sunday would agree.