What do Protestants who deny transubstantiation do with the remainders of wine and bread after the Eucharist?

For example, in Eastern Orthodox Church, after the liturgy the priest must consume (I mean eat) all remainders of the Body and the Blood of Christ. And is not permitted to leave even some the smallest parts of consecrated bread and wine, or lose some of them or to let fall on the floor some of them.

As I understand, many Protestants do not believe that the wine is real blood and the bread is the real Body of Christ. So, how do Protestant pastors treat such remainders?

  • 2
    This is too broad. There is no single answer. When I was a young teen, my church used "regular" bread. After service, all the youth would rush up to the front to grab the bread, and have a snack. More recently, a church I attended uses wafers, which are easily stored and saved for the next occasion.
    – Flimzy
    Sep 5, 2014 at 15:05
  • 2
    Chuck it. Or eat it.
    – LCIII
    Sep 5, 2014 at 16:18
  • 2
    @Flimzy and VTCers: Of course there isn't a single answer. But there are only four or five main options and it's pretty easy to summarize how it's dealt with across a broad range on traditions. Answering this is not outside of what I would expect of a reasonably researched and presented answer in this format.
    – Caleb
    Aug 22, 2015 at 9:32
  • 1
    Our church uses tortillas and juice, leftovers just get used the next week or thrown out if they've gone off Jan 20, 2022 at 20:44

8 Answers 8


You are correct that most Protestants do not see the bread and wine as anything more than symbols. There is no blessing that is ever attempted to transform the elements into the literal body and blood of Christ. Consequently, the bread and wine (or juice) that could be stored for long periods of time prior to the observance of the Eucharist (the Lord's Supper) can be stored for long periods of time afterwards. Additionally, if the bread or wine goes bad or if there is anything left over after an observance, they can be just thrown away.

So, some would ask if the disposing of these elements is irreverent. To answer that, it should be understood that the elements only serve as symbols during the observance of the Eucharist/Last Supper. Before and after, they are just regular, ordinary, "garden variety" bread and wine.

It should be noted, though, that there are some Protestant denominations that do hold the bread and wine in high regard. Some may even subscribe to transubstantiation. For those denominations, the practice would likely be similar to that of Catholics and Orthodox.

  • In the Baptist church where I would serve, the previous tradition had been to give the remainders to the birds. Personally, I made it a point to eat the remainders myself upon taking over, but that had been our tradition. Jun 21, 2013 at 14:31
  • Isn't this fact (... can be just thrown away...) some kind of negligence according to these symbols or not? How they could explain this?
    – Andremoniy
    Jun 21, 2013 at 14:40
  • @Andremoniy See update.
    – Narnian
    Jun 21, 2013 at 15:08
  • @AffableGeek I was attending a small Baptist Church that would only celebrate about once a month. The pastor would get this really delicious sweet roll kind of loaf and about half would be left almost every time. Guess who made sure that sweet roll was on his lunch plate? The point is, I don't think Baptists care what happens to any extras.
    – user3961
    Jun 21, 2013 at 21:53
  • Despite this answer's status as being the accepted answer with the most votes, it is not correct theologically or practically for many protestant denominations. For example, The United Methodist Church has prepared a resource that explains the United Methodist perspective and includes general background and comparisons with other denominations. umcdiscipleship.org/resources/…
    – BalooRM
    Apr 29, 2020 at 16:35

Episcopalians: The ushers count the congregation and count the wafers to match. If they miscounted the Priest in charge reserves the wafers in a "tabernacle" on the altar. They drink all of the wine/water. If a wafer is dropped it is retrieved quickly and consumed by the Priest. Whether or not individuals believe the wafer is the actual body of Christ is between him and God. Episcopalians are not required to believe in the transubstantiation as are Roman Catholics, though many do.


"Protestantism" is extremely diverse, and there is pretty much no single way that Protestants do anything. This is especially true of the Eucharist.

Some Protestants do believe that the transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus is real. Others believe in treating the communion elements with special reverence even if the transformation is symbolic or spiritual. The Anglican church, for example, also expects that leftover elements are consumed after the service - usually by the Priest.

For those that don't follow this practice, the elements can be disposed of in any way that is convenient. They can be eaten, thrown out, or kept for next week. Many Protestants also don't use actual wine for the communion, but grape juice instead.


As a United Methodist Clergy, I have two habits:

  1. I invite the children and youth to join me around the table to consume the elements (bread and juice) following worship.
  2. I offer this prayer for the remaining elements:

Thank you God for the gift of these elements which have served to remind us of your Son's sacrifice and great capacity to love us. As these elements have come from the earth, we now return them to the earth with thanksgiving. Amen.

  • Welcome to the site. Is this common among United Methodist's? Does this reverence extend to other clergy? Is this related to a recommended protocol?
    – user3961
    Sep 5, 2014 at 16:06
  • As a Baptist minister, I would do something very similiar. I also had a parishoner who would use bread to feed the birds, but say a prayer as she did. Sep 5, 2014 at 16:46
  • What @pastor-bev describes is entirely consistent with the United Methodist understanding of the sacrament of holy communion and its practice. The United Methodist Church has prepared an excellent resource on this topic: umcdiscipleship.org/resources/…
    – BalooRM
    Apr 29, 2020 at 16:30

Some Lutheran churches have an extra drain in the kitchen (sacristy) sink for disposal of extra, unused communion wine. This extra drain dumps directly to the soil underneath. The idea is that it is more respectful to dump on soil than to mix with sewage.

Page 13 of this FAQ from the LC-MS Lutherans explains their policy on disposal of the communion elements, including "returning to earth".


At my church (an Anglican Church in Sydney, Australia), the elements are considered symbols, however are treated with respect.

If there is any left over bread or juice/wine, it is consumed. One of our ministers (who also leads the band) will normally just consume the rest of the drink and eat the bread.

It is my impression that we would consider it disrespectful to just chuck it in the bin simply because it does have a symbolic importance and has been used to in what is a sacred meal to remember Jesus' atoning death.


A good friend of mine and her husband attend a non-denominational Bible Church. I go to services with them (Mass on Saturday though, I'm Catholic). Their church has "The Lord's Table" once a month.

The first time I attended when they had The Lord's Table my friend said "Oh I have to go downstairs ( to their social hall) to get the communion." Of course the Catholic in me wanted to ask, "You keep it in the KITCHEN??" I don't mean that as an insult. It was a very spiritual service and I felt privileged to take part. But they just had no special feelings towards the crackers and grape juice once the service was over unlike the way we regard the Bread and Wine. Once it is consecrated it must be consumed.

Since they see it as only a symbol they just store the leftover crackers for next time. My friend's husband put the communion trays away. I was so surprised to see him toss all the little cups we had used into the trash can! And as we were leaving he put the bottle of grape juice in his coat pocket to take home. He was saving it for next time.

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    – ThaddeusB
    Jul 30, 2015 at 21:36

There are different views with respect to various Protestant churches. It depends on whether they believe in the real presence of Christ in the sacrament.

Lutherans, for example, believe that Christ is present with his body and blood in an illocal consubstantial like manner under the forms of the bread and wine.

Here is one view on the Sacramental Union and the Handling of the Elements from a Lutheran pastor (emphasis added):

How then should we handle the elements used in the Lord’s Supper? With supreme reverence and care! For we know that the true presence of our Lord Jesus Christ is present! Here is a story that helps to shed some light on this topic. In 1542 at St. Mary’s Church in Wittenberg, Martin Luther and Johannes Bugenhagen were celebrating the Lord’s Supper with the parish. A woman communicant accidentally bumped against the chalice as she was kneeling down so that some of its contents spilled upon her clothing. Luther and Bugenhagen assisted in wiping off the woman’s jacket. After the celebration Luther had the affected portion of the lining of the jacket cut out and burned, along with the wood that he had shaved from the part of the choir stall upon which the contents of the chalice had likewise been splashed. In 1530, Luther had a host which had been placed into the mouth of a dying parishioner burned because the individual died before he could swallow.

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