History of the Communion Dispenser

The Story of the Communion Dispenser Invented by Wil Greenlee

In 1995 the first edition of the Southeast Outlook newspaper, published by Southeast Christian Church, included an article reporting the inordinate amount of time spent by volunteers to fill the communion cups for the weekend worship services. At that time the average attendance was about 10,000 at five services. The cups were being filled one at a time using a bulb syringe. It took about five minutes to fill a tray and twenty hours to fill all the trays for a weekend.


Wil was challenged by his wife, Melita, and then by others to design a new and better way to accomplish the task of filling the cups for the communion trays. Always a person looking for a challenge, Wil put on his thinking cap, his engineer’s cap and, then, his toolmaker’s cap and went to work.


After his first attempt at designing and constructing a juice dispenser wasn’t up to his standards - the flow of liquid did not seal completely, he did not work on the project for a while.


Eventually, Wil could not resist trying again. This time he started with a new idea and designed and built another dispenser.


"It works like a charm. Free at last, thank God, I’m free at last!" was the response of one the ladies volunteering at Southeast Christian.


The first dispenser put into use was about three feet high. Updates have provided a lower profile for the juice dispenser. Each dispenser has three Plexiglas shelves at different levels supported by four stainless steel rods. The top shelf holds an aluminum pot with the base drilled for forty hose connections (dental fittings) to which are attached forty plastic hoses.


A clamping arrangement operated by a handle is on the middle shelf. Pulling down on the handle clamps all forty hoses simultaneously, through a toggle arrangement, shutting off the flow of juice.


Raising the handle allows the juice to flow to the lower shelf through forty more connectors into nozzles and into the tray of cups. This bottom tray has three fixed stops installed on it to locate the tray and a witness mark to position it radially to insure that it is lined up correctly.


In two seconds the cups are uniformly filled to the exact level needed with no drips and no leaks. The dispenser was first put into use for the March 7-8, 1998, services at Southeast.


A third, more-uniquely designed version of the juice dispenser is now in use at Southeast Christian Church. The dispensers have been in use for nearly 12 years now and attendance has grown to 18-19,000 each week, requiring 450 or more trays to serve the worshipers.


The people who prepare communion continue to be greatly pleased with the dispensers. After all, preparing the trays now takes about 2 hours, but would have taken over 38 hours without the use of the dispensers. An added benefit to the church is that more than 20 volunteers are now free to serve in other much-needed areas.


It was Wil’s intent only to address the need at Southeast. However, as other churches learned about the dispenser, they expressed their desire to have one. To meet this demand Wil and Melita Greenlee formed Greenlee Communion Dispensing Systems to market dispensers to others.



"Words do not adequately convey the thought, skill, patience and ability that went into this success story. Wil’s experience of almost 32 years at International Harvester Company helped prepare him with the skill and knowledge required to complete a project like this."

- Vernon Osborne, Retired Mechanical Engineer