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Children and Communion at St. James'

Whoever welcomes in my name one of these children, welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, welcomes not only me but also the one who sent me.  Mark 9:37

St. James' has a vibrant and developing ministry to children and families and we are always looking to do more to include young people.  Our new Third Sunday at 10 service, which includes children, has been warmly received by all generations and is developing a younger congregation.  The next logical step is for St. James' to consider admitting children to communion before they are confirmed.  As president I am often surrounded by a crowd of children for the Eucharistic prayer.   It would make good sense to be able to fully include these children in our worship by sharing bread and wine with them. I have lost count of the number of times I have been asked by children for communion and it has been difficult to explain to them why I cannot give them what they are asking for. 

Giving children communion has actually been allowed under Canon Law since 2006 and actively encouraged by our own Bishop since July 2016.  In fact, someone mentioned that our previous vicar tried this some time ago.  To follow Canon Law to the letter we need to discuss the idea at PCC and in the wider congregation, and write to the Bishop and ask for his permission.

I am writing to say that the PCC has discussed this and agreed that I write to the Bishop to ask his permission and I am waiting for his reply.  The next step is to have a conversation in our church community.

This provision, which has been agreed by the church for some time, is for children who are seven and older and who have been baptised.  We are already obliged to give communion to a child who has been properly admitted to communion in another parish.  There is an expectation that children will be prepared and we are suggesting that children and parents who wish to take this opportunity are invited to a training event on, say, a Saturday morning.  Over the past four years there have many times when children have instinctively and naturally put their hands out for the body of Christ.  We also believe that this is good opportunity to involve parents more and nurture their faith.

Why are we considering doing this?  Bishop Tim writes this in the introduction to the Diocese's guidelines:

‘We have so much to learn from children.  Jesus urges us to become child-like in order to receive the kingdom of God - an invitation to be trusting, open-hearted, uncomplicated, enthusiastic and life-affirming.  In this Diocese, we've been at the forefront of ensuring that children are fully part of the worshipping life of the church.'

We at St. James' have worked hard to put children at the centre of our worship and our communal life.  In designing the new Third Sunday at 10 service we looked for different ways to do this, from asking children to read and pray for us, making the address child friendly and inviting children to surround the altar for the Eucharistic prayer.  Admitting children for communion seems like the next logical step.

Of course there are arguments for and against.  Some people might say that children don't understand what's happening, or that they are too young.  We think that children should be welcomed and valued equally and not excluded from any part of our worship.  We would challenge anyone to fully explain what is happening when we receive the body and blood of Christ - it is a mystery and it is better for children to be involved from an early age and learn by engaging in that mystery.  Others might say that confirmation is the right time to receive Communion and not before and children should wait until they are older.  We feel that this will enhance the experience of confirmation with learning at an earlier age and that all our worship will be enriched by the whole community receiving communion together.  Above all we feel this is another and very good way to draw young families closer into the life of our church and allow them to experience the love and forgiveness of God in their lives, and the fellowship of the body of Christ.

It is still some time before this will happen so please take every opportunity to talk to me or a member of the Ministry Team if you have any questions.

With every blessing, 

Rev John
Priest in Charge