Photo by Honey Yanibel Minaya Cruz on Unsplash.

By Travis Duerksen
Thursday, September 30, 2021

NEWTON, Kansas (Mennonite Mission Network) — Hospitality takes many forms. For Open Door Mennonite Church in Jackson, Mississippi, the act of giving and receiving hospitality is often expressed through food. Every second Sunday of the month, the congregation gathers together, after the service, to share a potluck meal. 

As the host congregation for the Jackson Service Adventure unit, the church has been welcoming unit participants and leaders to these gatherings since the unit opened in 2016. One year, when the Service Adventure unit included participants with gluten and sugar allergies, the congregation made the decision that every dish at their potlucks would be gluten- and sugar-free.  

Mark Roth, a member of Open Door, recalled, in a recent phone interview, that the Service Adventure participants "had more than once made comments [that] they were just really surprised that we would try to go the extra mile to accommodate them." 

"But it's like, well, you're a part of us," he continued. "And we're not going to exclude you because you have an allergy." Roth, as well as other members of the congregation, began coordinating meals to make sure that gluten- and sugar-free main dishes, side dishes, vegetables and desserts were all available at each potluck. The church and the unit shared the cost of bulk bags of the expensive sugar substitute to facilitate goodies like brownies and cookies. "It was very helpful for us as a church, in our quest to be inclusive, [to realize] that food allergies are just as important as other issues," Roth said. 

This recipe is one of two that Roth adapted to be both gluten- and sugar-free for the congregation to share together. Follow this link for Roth's go-to recipe for gluten-free, sugar-free dinner rolls.

Gluten-free, sugar-free brownies


½ cups margarine, melted 

1 cups xylitol (or another one-to-one sugar substitute, see additional note) 

1 egg 

3 tablespoon cocoa powder 

¾  cup gluten-free flour 

½ teaspoon baking powder 

½ teaspoon vanilla extract 

½ cup nuts


Cream together margarine, xylitol and egg. Add remaining ingredients. Place in a greased 9x9 pan. Bake at 350° F for 25 minutes (see note). Makes 12 bars.

NOTE: While 25 minutes is the recommended baking time, to achieve a more traditional chewy brownie texture when using xylitol, consider removing brownies from oven a little before the full baking time. 

ADDITIONAL NOTE: While commonly used in sugar-free food for human consumption (including gum, candies etc.) Xylitol is extremely toxic for dogs, and food that includes even small amounts of the sweetener should never be fed to pets, or left open and unattended if your household includes dogs.


​Travis Duerksen is a writer and multimedia producer for Mennonite Mission Network.



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