The Vicar Writes (November)
RECEIVING COMMUNION AND BAPTISM
This month the bishops of the Church of Wales issued a joint statement on baptism and the Eucharist. The Press Release (see pages 10/11) states that receiving communion should be open to every baptised member of the Church – even very young children. This ruling comes into effect on Advent Sunday this year.
In the period between now and Advent Sunday, we will explore how we can best implement the teaching that our Bishops have given us. Bishop Richard of Monmouth has stated that, in practice, it will mean that baptised children from the age of five should be helped, through first communion preparation, to understand how to receive Holy Communion. All adults who are baptised will be encouraged to come to a simple preparation session so that we can explain what Holy Communion means, and how you go about receiving it at the altar.
What about confirmation?
Confirmation will remain an important sacrament that every parent and godparent who’s child is baptised promises to embrace. If you are baptised as a child, your parents and godparents promise to bring you up in the faith to the point where you can make (confirm) the baptismal promises for yourself – promises that have already been made for you.
This is why every adult who asks for baptism must be included in a confirmation programme, because the promises to God made at a baptism can, for adults, proceed straight to confirmation. At confirmation we confirm our desire to follow Christ for the rest of our lives. God confirms that decision with the grace and help of His Holy Spirit. I know that some of you will have heard of parishes where adults are baptised but are not guided towards confirmation. But this should not happen. An adult who desires to make the life-long promises for him or herself at baptism needs to follow these promises through to confirmation and will have no problem doing so if they mean what they say at their baptism.
Holy Communion, like baptism, does not depend on a child (or adult) understanding what is happening, as the action of God comes first in both cases. It’s what God is doing that matters most, not what we understand. We don’t wait until children understand about nutrition before feeding them. The basic thrust of what the bishops are saying is: if you baptise them, you should feed them.
This principle is true. In any case, children, in my experience, readily understand that to receive Holy Communion is to receive Jesus. It is that simple. It is that profound.
Do I understand how that can be? No.
Do I trust Jesus when He tells me that it is so? Yes!
As we move towards, what are for us, the new guidelines about receiving Holy Communion do encourage friends and family to come and talk to us clergy. We are here to help you.