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Where should the bread of heaven be made?

Where should the bread of heaven be made?

Most Episcopalians open their hands and receive the “body of Christ, the bread of heaven” on a weekly basis. But not many of us know much about the actual bread pressed into our palm. It turns out, the for congregations that purchase their wafers rather than make them, the majority of the wafers say something interesting about the Church as a business.

In a long article about the business of communion wafers, Rowan Moore Gerety focuses on Cavanagh, the single largest supplier of wafers in the USA:

“Cavanagh’s wheat is supplied in shipments of 42,000 to 45,000 pounds, bouncing across the heartland in eighteen-wheelers every three weeks. Their supplier, Archer Daniels Midland, is one of the biggest corporations in agribusiness: the same flour that ends up on Catholic altars across the country in the form of hosts could, according to ADM, end up in tortillas, refrigerated doughs, “Asian noodles,” bagels, and doughnuts at your local supermarket. In an unexpected parallel to more globalized industries—think apparel, electronics—ADM’s employees do not necessarily know how their product will be used. The majority, according to John Dick, Cavanagh’s sales representative at ADM, have no idea that the flour they grind will one day become, in the eyes of millions, the body of Christ. The very idea, Dick said, is “awe-inspiring” to him.”

Lots more here.

Marginal Revolution points out that the article raises a number of questions about the purpose of the whole enterprise because of the collision of what we think we should expect in the church and the way large business works.

So, does your congregation use “home-made” bread? Does your congregation buy from Cavanagh? (Mine does.) And what about people who are gluten intolerant? (We make our own gluten-free bread.)


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We buy ours from a Roman convent nearby. The sisters are marvelous good friends and this supports their order. High quality.

Craig Sweeney

Jamie McMahon

Not exactly thrilled to find out that the manufacturer of high fructose corn syrup has a hand in producing our wafers. Might have to look into that Holy Trinity company.

Eric Funston

Parishes I’ve served in the past regularly used bread baked by the altar guild or a bakers guild using a recipe that we got from the sacristans at Church Divinity School of the Pacific; it is a non-crumb recipe. At my current parish we use wafers most of the time, occasionally using that recipe to bake bread for special services. I’d like to go to home-made bread for all services, but we haven’t made that move yet.

C. Wingate

Egad, I can remember the days of store-bought pita bread. What is this church coming to?

Lois Keen

The church I serve uses Cavanagh wafers. They used to use homemade bread, to a no-crumb recipe. There were some still frozen in the coffee room kitchen fridge when I got there – they had been there a very long time. The people who used to make it had left some time ago.

I did serve a church, in Delaware, which got its wafers provided by a parishioner as a pledge. They were made by nuns, I was told, but I don’t remember whose nuns.

We used gluten free wafers from some supplier – maybe Cavanagh as well – but they were so crumbly. So the altar guild, in their very practical wisdom, purchases rice wafers from Whole Foods.

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