Over the past year, the leadership of St John's Church, its Vicar, staff and PCC has had a series of discussions regarding our understanding and practice as it relates to baptism, confirmation and admission of children to Holy Communion. We have shared and discussed our own experiences, as well as reading some helpful material prepared by the Barnsbury Parish Team long with guidelines produced by the Diocese of London as we sought to decide whether we would like to admit children to Holy Communion prior to confirmation.
Over the course of our meetings, and in further informal conversations, a range of views has been expressed. There was broad agreement on the following:
- The centrality of children in the life of our church
- The importance of Holy Communion in the spiritual life of a child
- The importance of children (and adults!) having some preparation for and understanding of the nature of the Eucharist
- The central emphasis we place on ‘hospitality’ including to the Lord’s Supper.
- The need to help parents take responsibility for nurturing their children’s faith
- The benefit of special occasions to mark spiritual growth and development
We have reached the conclusion, that in accordance with the General Synod regulations of 2006, we would like to admit baptised children to Holy Communion prior to confirmation.
We anticipate that baptised children from around the age of 6 or 7 may begin to wish to receive Holy Communion, provided they have their parents’ support. We also recognise that it may be hard to ‘police’ this strictly, and some younger children may wish to receive the bread and wine as well. (We currently invite parents to share their bread with their baptised children of any age.)
We propose to put in place the following procedures to enable clarity in this change of approach:
- We will run a termly ‘Children’s Connect Group’ – a midweek discipleship group for 7-11 year olds in which the nature of sacraments can be discussed and explored in addition to bible study, prayer and fellowship.
- We will be changing our communion wine to a non-alcoholic variety. (This is also beneficial for members of our church in recovery.)
- We will change our words of invitation to say the following: ‘We welcome all baptised Christians to receive the bread and wine of Holy Communion, including baptised children with their parents’ support.’
- We will include some form of ‘admission to Holy Communion’ celebration as part of our annual cycle of baptism services, but usually kept separate from the confirmation service.
- We will provide simple and clear written information on our website and on our noticeboard explaining how children can receive Holy Communion (including the option to just receive the bread) which can be used by parents and children to discuss their preferences.
- We will encourage Confirmation to become a mark of transition into early adulthood – aiming it more at 16-18 years old and other young adults.
We have consulted with the Bishop of Stepney, Rt Revd Adrian Newman, and we're delighted that we have his permission and blessing as we move into this new practice in our worship services.
We're excited to share this news with our wider church community, and we hope that parents and children alike will be pleased with this more inclusive approach to our fellowship. We hope that Christian parents will talk with their baptised children about the nature of Holy Communion, and that baptised children will grow deeper in their faith and walk with Jesus as they begin to share in Holy Communion.
We encourage younger children to still come with their parents for a prayer of blessing, and if their parents wish, to receive a share of their parents bread. Very young children are still very dependent on their parents for all things - and expressing this through shared participation in Holy Communion is appropriate.
To help visitors understand our approach, we have created this simple poster that will be on display in our main noticeboard: Children & Holy Communion Poster
We will mark this new change with a special All-Age Worship Service on Sunday 7th January at both 9.30 and 11.30am - during which we will rededicate ourselves as followers of Christ for the year ahead, and also formally admit those baptised children who wish to begin receiving Holy Communion.