With red suspenders, two pens protruding from a shirt pocket, and a cell phone strapped to his chest, Wilfred Greenlee looks more like a retired engineer than a missionary. But the Louisville, Kentucky, inventor fits both descriptions, thanks to his new communion dispensing system, which fills 40 half-ounce cups in two seconds. The device cuts preparation time by 50 percent or more, a key savings for volunteer-needy congregations.
"I thought, 'If I can build this and get it into a number of megachurches, there will be far more missions done than I could do on a one-on-one basis,'" says Greenlee, 77.
Darren Walter, guest services minister at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, agrees: "Several people have had time freed up to be involved in other things."
The Louisville church's move into a 9,100-seat sanctuary two years ago provided Greenlee's inspiration. Southeast needed to slice weekly Communion preparation time. The Missouri native, who quit school at 14 to help manage the family farm during the Great Depression, spent more than two years perfecting his device. However, the system is only half complete. Later this year he hopes to produce a mechanical device that will load cups into trays before filling.
Greenlee has been marketing the dispenser since last spring. By mid-autumn he had sold seven. "This is one of the greatest gifts we've ever received," says Terry Anderson of Christ Church of the Valley.
The suburban Phoenix church won its system in a drawing at a Southeast pastors' conference last spring. After weekly attendance doubled the past two years, Communion preparation had become a challenge, the associate pastor says. Today, instead of three people taking 90 minutes by hand, a single person finishes in half an hour.
At North Atlanta Church of Christ, Joe Gage and his wife used to spend two hours pouring juice before each Sunday morning service. Last summer the congregation added a second service, increasing the number of cups needed by 41 percent. But with the dispenser, they finish in just over an hour.
Although Pine Lake Baptist Church in Brandon, Mississipi, serves Communion monthly, executive pastor Larry Herndon is delighted: "This is the best thing since sliced bread."
Churches can order Communion supplies and accessories online in order to save time, too.
Other stories on communion from our sister magazines include "The Rite Stuff" from Christian Reader and "Table Toppers" from Your Church.
Christianity Today ran a story last week about Southeast Christian Church's growth and ministries:"Not Just Another Megachurch | Church-growth critics and partisans would do well to visit Louisville's Southeast Christian Church."
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.