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Exeter diocese offers online resources for admitting children to communion

18 February 2022

Diocese of Exeter

NEW guidance for churches wishing to admit baptised children to holy communion has been made available online.

The General Synod agreed in 1996 that churches could allow children who were not yet confirmed to receive the sacrament, but, while it happens regularly in some churches, the practice is still not widespread.

Now, the liturgical adviser for Exeter diocese, the Revd Paul Kingdom, who is also Rector of Silverton, Butterleigh, Bickleigh and Cadeleigh, has created a resources webpage at exeter.anglican.org. “There is a need for good preparation, joyful celebration, and affirmation, but also a requirement to follow the procedures laid down by General Synod,” he said. “It is important to have access to the right resources, and we hope that the Exeter diocese have now gone some way to offering these to mission communities in an accessible way.”

Admitting children to communion is a decision for PCCs or joint councils, but the Bishop must agree.

The new guidance has been welcomed by the National Children and Youth Adviser, the Revd Mary Hawes, who, about six years ago, helped to introduce children to communion in her parish of St Alban’s with St Mary’s, in Teddington, west London, where she is a self-supporting minister.

“I feel passionately about baptised children being able to receive the bread and wine at communion,” she said. “If we truly believe that children are part of the church family — and in our baptism services we talk about welcoming them into the whole family of God — then they need to be able to receive the sacraments alongside us as part of that spiritual nourishment for their journey.”

In her church, they embarked on a consultation across all the community, and created a short preparation course of three sessions involving whole families.

“When people have done research with children who have been receiving communion for a while, and with their churches, they have found it has made a difference — not only to how they feel as a community, but also to the adults, who can recognise that being part of God’s family isn’t about knowing enough to get in: its about the gift of grace that God gives to us. It can only enhance our life together as the people of God and as a community in our particular location.”

Children at St Andrew’s, Ashburton, in Devon, made their first communion on Christmas Day 2021. Ten-year-old Sebastian said that it made him feel fully part of the church family. “I like it that the Vicar invites us up to stand with him round the altar while preparing the gifts; so perhaps other churches might do that as well.” He thought, however, that prayers used in preparing the bread and wine could be worded more for children to help them understand what was going on.

Alannah, 12, said: “I think it’s worth it — it makes you feel closer to God, and I like the service. It’s a fun one. It’s nice to take part properly in a service.”

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