MAGAZINE: Baptism & Communion

MAGAZINE: Baptism & Communion

From the Rectory: For a few years now the Church of England has encouraged parishes to have a discussion about admitting baptised children to Holy Communion before confirmation. If vicar and PCC are in agreement then the Bishop is approached to be asked if this can become the policy in that particular parish. So parishes all over England will have either had this discussion, are currently having it, or have decided to leave it for another day while more pressing matters are being addressed! Under the guidance of our curate, Sarah Northall, we have begun this discussion. The January and February magazine letters  from Sarah have been about this subject, the PCC has begun to talk about this and there are resources on our website which you can read to find out what this is all about. The discussions have begun!

As your vicar I would like this change to take place so as part of the discussion process it is important for you to know why I feel that there are good reasons for this.

Firstly it has been the practice for some years now in other parts of the Anglican Communion. Two of my own children were admitted to Holy Communion in the Scottish Episcopal Church (after a period of preparation) when they were about the age of 7. We were a family who worshipped together week by week and it was the most natural thing in the world for them to put their hands out at the altar rail in just the same way as they saw everyone else doing to receive the sacrament.

Which brings me to the second reason – what do we think Holy Baptism is except incorporation into the Body of Christ? And if you are a member of the Body of Christ then you have a place at the Lord’s Table. The new font cover that we are proposing will have lettering around the edge which will say: “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new Creation – the old has passed away, behold the new is born.” Of course every baptised person has to grow into the faith into which they have been baptised but we do so by participation.

So my third point is that belonging often precedes believing. In matters of faith it is often the heart that leads and the head follows; the head has a vital part to play but the heart sets the direction! By admitting baptised children to Holy Communion before confirmation we are saying to baptised children that they are fully part of the community of faith and by belonging they will learn the meaning of the Christian faith – this is a process that lasts a lifetime and participation in the sacrament of Holy Communion has a central part to play in this.

Finally what then happens to Confirmation if baptised children are admitted to Holy Communion? In both the cases of my children they were confirmed at about the age of 15; for others confirmation is an adult affirmation of faith perhaps marking a return to the life of the church. Confirmation remains the same and its content unaltered – an affirmation of faith with the Bishop laying on hands and praying for the gift of the Holy Spirit – the change is that it is no longer the doorway to receiving Holy Communion.

I think this is a better way; and I hope that though discussion and prayer you will come to your own mind on this issue and tell PCC members your thinking.

Andrew McKearney