Communion wafers for after the lockdown

The baking machines in Lusaka and Cape Town have come to a standstill, and in Bielefeld the warehouse is being stocked up. Things in the three large wafer bakeries of the New Apostolic Church are anything but normal these days.

“The suspension of church services has also affected us,” says Michael Bock, the manager of the wafer bakery in Bielefeld in Germany. Due to the coronavirus pandemic churches have been closed for several weeks now and divine services can only be celebrated virtually in most countries. The celebration of Holy Communion can therefore not take place right now; the faithful are not able to partake of the body and blood of Jesus in the form of the consecrated wafer. Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider recently explained the reason for this in an interview .

The weekly production of 2.2 million wafers in Bielefeld is therefore currently not being requested. “Since the middle of March orders from Europe have more or less stopped. Since the beginning of April we have also been unable to fulfil contracts for deliveries to Africa and other countries, since there are hardly any services being conducted there,” Block reports. This is an extraordinary situation for the wafer bakery, which has been supplying congregations around the world since 1931.

Stopping production

Jan Tischendorf and his team at the wafer bakery in Cape Town in South Africa are experiencing something similar. Production was stopped at the beginning of the pandemic and the ban on assemblies. Normally there are seven employees in the bakery and one in shipping. Since 2003 more than 220,000 wafers have been baked here every day, supplying congregations in South Africa, south-eastern Africa, East Africa, and parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo-West.

And Nimon Muleya, the correspondent from Zambia, reports that production has also been suspended in the wafer bakery in Lusaka. “The bakery is closed for the time being.” On any given day, 200,000 wafers are produced here by ten employees—and this since the bakery was first opened in 2012. The Lusaka bakery supplies congregations in Kenya, Mocuba, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Filling the warehouses and servicing the baking machines

Production in Germany is still ongoing: “We will use the time after Easter to stock up our warehouses so that we are ready for the time after the lockdown.” The five employees will bake up to 20 million wafers and then store them properly. “We will then use the time to carry out maintenance work without the pressure of a running production,” explains Michael Block.

The bakery in Lusaka has ten million wafers in stock right now. However, this stock is very low, “especially when we resume divine services,” Nimon Muleya says. “There is no need to take special precautions when stocking the wafers because they do not contain anything that can go bad,” the German bakery manager says. “Like cookies, wafers do not need to be refrigerated,” he says with a smile, and his colleague adds, “As long as the wafers are stored in a dry place at room temperature, everything is fine.”

The same applies to the supplies which are being stored in the churches. Jan Tischendorf from South Africa says, “The wafers should be stored at under 27 degrees Celsius, sealed and safe from rodents, in suitable food-safe containers.”

Full capacity right after resuming production

How exactly things will continue the New Apostolic bakers do not know either. But they all agree on one thing: “Basically we can resume production any time again overnight. We don’t need any start-up time,” says Michael Block, and Jan Tischendorf from South Africa adds, “Immediately after the bakery is up and running we can produce the normal quantity again.”

When Holy Communion can once again be celebrated in the divine services, the three large wafer bakeries will once again produce more than four million wafers a week to supply the 60,000 congregations around the world with. At the high-point of the divine service we will then once again hear: “The body and blood of Jesus given for you.” Millions of brothers and sisters can hardly wait for this moment.

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Oliver Rütten
Auxiliary institutions