From Mrs Joan Bentley
Sir, — I have just read Giles Fraser’s article “Safe in the hands of
Comment, 5 November), and am almost tempted to think that we belong to
At St Paul’s, Accrington, children come to the altar to receive a blessing.
From a few weeks old, they come with their parents; later, they come with the
Sunday school. So, by the time they are old enough to be confirmed (and
understand just what the eucharist means), they are quite at home at the altar
rails. I do not find this patronising; nor do adults, not yet confirmed, who
also come for a blessing.
As for his other remarks, I find them baffling. Jellybabies at the altar
rail? Load of old rubbish indeed.
5 Epsom Way
Lancs BB5 2AP
From Mr Paul Brazier
Sir, — The inclusion of children at holy
communion is laudable. But Dr Giles Fraser’s comment leaves more questions
unanswered than it addresses.
Is this practice to be comparable to first communion in the Roman Catholic
Church, where children as young as eight years old are prepared and receive (a
practice that does not prevent later confirmation or a faith commitment)? To
what extent are children in today’s Church of England given the same degree of
preparation in terms of biblical or doctrinal education as in Rome, or for that
matter in the Evangelical Churches, particularly with regard to sin and
Inclusivity is to be applauded, but on what grounds — human need or the
righteousness of God? What is to be made of children who take the wafer and run
off round the church to the home corner to play with it (shades of
Pelagianism?), parents looking on, smiling inanely: does this not reduce
communion to the same level as the holy Jellybaby that Dr Fraser rightly
Without proper theological guidelines, is the present approach inevitably an
Anglican compromise, reflecting a consumer society that must have everything it
desires with immediate effect? And are we in danger of belittling the
importance of simply giving children a blessing, grace freely given: “Lord, we
are not worthy to receive you, but only say the word . . .”?
64 Oxford Avenue
London SW20 8LT
From the Revd John Smart
Sir, — It was exciting to read Giles Fraser’s article “Safe in the hands of
children”. I, too, both as a grandparent and a parish priest have experienced
the joy and privilege of seeing children admitted to “communion before
confirmation” around the age of seven to nine. Their preparation groups, which
included a teach-in for parents, were an opportunity for purposeful Christian
teaching, not just about the eucharist. They looked forward to the day of their
admission with excitement and awe. The simple admission ceremony at the Sunday
eucharist was a wonderful occasion.
Up to the time of my retirement two years ago, 90 per cent had progressed
after three years or so to confirmation. Many are still lively members of the
church youth group.
As one parent, who as a child had been admitted to first communion in the
Roman Catholic Church, explained to me: “At my first communion, I enjoyed at
last becoming a full member of the church family; at my confirmation, as a
young adult, I expressed my own personal commitment to Jesus.”
Sunnymede, South Zeal
Devon EX20 2JL