The admission of children to communion before they are confirmed is an exciting change within the Church of England and is an issue that involves the whole congregation. The guidelines, downloadable by clicking here, help those parishes wishing to consider this.
The decision to admit children to communion is a challenging but exciting step. The PCC will need to consider the nurture and the care of all its members. Issues of faith development and implications for rites of passage as well as patterns of worship will need to be considered. It is therefore not a decision which should be taken lightly. Considerable time and commitment will be needed for its proper implementation, but it is well worth the effort and help is available.
The process for exploring the issue and attaining consent from the bishop is as follows:
- Download and read the diocesan guidelines
- Interest shown - please contact Dan Jones for advice
- Initial discussions within the PCC
- Preparation and consultation with congregation
- Letter to bishop’s consultant expressing interest
- PCC/DCC discuss in detail and vote
- Developing a policy
- Policy to be sent to bishop’s consultant and then to the bishop for consent
- Parental preparation
- Children’s preparation
- Implementation of policy
- Children admitted to communion
- Ongoing monitoring & review
Dan Jones, Youth and Children’s Adviser for the diocese, talks of his experiences related to the Communion Service.
On a typical cold and frosty winters evening, a young man slowly packs his laptop and projector away, left alone with the task of locking the church. Exhausted and drained from the night’s events, he finishes tidying up, sits down and looks up towards the cross on the altar. With a shrug of the shoulders he whispers beneath his breath; ‘I didn’t expect that! Did you?’
This scenario conjures up a multitude of possibilities but what actually happened that night? Had the young man prepared an amazing presentation but no one turned up? Did a group of disruptive young people drop in to say ‘hello’? Did the healing service witness something amazing or did a freak power cut bring an abrupt end to the ‘new’ interactive praise service? The answer is: none of these and I know because the young man was me.
Back then, I was the youth and children’s worker at a small Anglican church in Somerset. The vicar had asked me to lead a ‘special’ church meeting on the topic of admitting children to communion. Knowing that I had his support on children receiving communion and with a growing congregation which included lots of young families and a vibrant youth and children’s ministry, I was quietly confident as the evening arrived. Prepared and ready I welcomed everyone and began my presentation to familiar, friendly faces. Visions of a unanimous ‘vote in favour’ began to drift into my thoughts as I got in the groove, but – was I wrong to think that!
As I muttered my last words, sipped a glass of water, I sat down and asked if there were any questions. It suddenly dawned on me that almost all of the people who attended were not on the same wavelength as me! What I encountered that evening was a vocal group of people whose thinking, experience, traditional values and theological understanding were different to mine. I left the church exhausted, feeling as though I had been mentally bruised and beaten up.
I often reflect back to the events of that evening. Did I do something wrong? If I had presented it differently, would they have changed their minds? Did I answer the questions with clarity and integrity? However, time has made me realise how narrow-minded I was. Don’t get me wrong, to have converted everyone to (some would say) ‘radical’ way of thinking would have been amazing, but on reflection I missed the bigger picture of God’s plan for that evening.
On that winter'ss night, God’s people debated what it meant to be an inclusive church and Communion before Confirmation being just one of many tools that can help build an ‘inclusive church’.
For a steadily growing number of Anglican churches, the admission of children to communion has become part of their mission strategy, recognising, accepting and affirming children and young people as active and equal members of the cchurch.
However, every week in parishes across the country, young children attend Holy Communion services yet they are excluded from receiving the sacrament. Many of them are regular worshippers, baptized and part of the body of Christ through their baptism. Within the baptism service we say:
We welcome you into the Lord’s family
We are members together in the body of Christ
We are children of the same heavenly Father
We are inheritors together of the Kingdom of God
But how is this expressed afterwards? At a recent training day at Trinity College, new ordinands were discussing ‘Why work with children and young people?’ and someone said: ‘There are no them and us. We are all God’s children.’ Often our observation is that adults, young people and children are all very different, but we fail to realise that we are all God’s children, all equal through His eyes. Creating ‘inclusive’ churches involves including others in the process.
You may not think it is the right time for introducing children to communion in your parish, but have you asked the question to the rest of the church family? Even though the outcome was not the one I had hoped for, the church I used to work at was ready to discuss the idea but not 100% sure to take it further at that specific point. The important thing was that it was debated and the views and opinions of children were valued.
Are you as a church ready to address children receiving Communion before Confirmation?