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Letters to the editor >

Children at the holy communion

Sir, - As the last surviving member of the 1970 Ely commission, which began in 1969 as an Archbishops' Commission and reported to the Synod in April 1971 under the title Christian Initiation: Birth and growth in the Christian society, may I say how gratified I am that, after 35 years, approval has been given to the admission of children to holy communion.

In 1970, we were aware of the difficulties that surfaced in the Synod debate. The reservations of Simon Butterworth could have been met by an acceptance of our recommendations on adult confirmation. The perceptive remark by the Bishop of Durham that the issue is really about full initiation echoes the basis of our report - birth and growth. It is a pity that the Synod was not brave enough, as we put it, "to make explicit its recognition of baptism as the full and complete rite of Christian initiation".

On training and confirmation, our recommendations were: that provision should be made at all levels of church life for clergy and laity alike to learn how to train young people for responsible life in the community; and "that the rite of confirmation continue to be administered as a service of commitment and commissioning, but as a suitable stage in adult life with the laying on of hands by the bishop or a priest appointed by the bishop for that purpose".

(Some of us were anxious that the ancient practice of the parish priest's confirming his own candidates be restored, but we did not wish the role of the bishop to be diminished. Indeed, we recommended that he administer first communion.)

In the realm of training, I am aware that we are in a new situation, but a re-reading of the chapter on this in the report would be well worth while.
Flat 3, Ramsay Hall
Byron Road, Worthing
West Sussex BN11 3HN

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