First Communion

Oh, truly a wonderful communion story…

On Sunday, one of our 3 year olds (I’ll call her Claire) was sitting in the second row of pews with her parents. Next to her was one of our church elders, Harrison, who is also a pillar of the congregation in the best sense of the word and one of the few people I have ever met who is completely at home, able, and amazing with kids from age 0 to 25.

When this family went up for communion, Claire didn’t take any. But, after they got back to the pew, they saw a dad and his 3 year old go up and the 3 year old took communion (OK, full disclosure, that was my kid…who is not about to give up any chance to get her hands on extra grape juice). When Claire saw Zora taking communion she was a little peeved that she hadn’t gotten to. Parents sort of wondered about this, and Harrison explained that current PCUSA policy is that it’s up to parents to decide when kids may take communion, and if it was OK with them, Claire could.

Meanwhile, we were done with serving at the front, and my assistant and I were at the back serving an older gentleman who hadn’t been able to leave his pew. Harrison brought Claire to the back and walked her through the procedure, but she took two pieces first, and then lost them in the cup, and we just scooted those two into the bread basket to give her another chance with a new piece of bread.

It was a time I was really grateful to have a theology of communion that allowed me not to feel really anxious about the cup spilling, bread not being eaten, etc!

I love our church’s policy on communion and children (CRCNA folks, take heed as you make this big decision!). I love that every time we serve communion we might have a child who is taking it for the first time (in fact, I suspect there was another three year old who was partaking for the first time on Sunday).

I am grateful that we had an alert and loving elder in the pew who knew the policy and guided the family through it.

I am sad that we haven’t done a good enough job of educating our congregation, so that some of our parents don’t know how this works. We might need to fix that.

But I really don’t want to fix it by instituting some kind of class. Because I’m almost certain that in a church our size, we would start to have people come to the class at a certain age. And then the whole thing would get formalized and ritualized. And then we would have some sort of big “event”.

And I don’t want it be an event. I love that I can’t even remember Zora’s first time taking communion. I do remember what it was like to put that little bit of purple-stained bread in her mouth. I’m pretty certain it was her first solid food.

I love that Claire’s first communion was quiet and sweet and absolutely perfect, and that this part of her life with Christ was accidentally and providentially bound to the people who just happened to be in the pew with her that day.

5 Responses to “First Communion”

  1. Bromleigh Says:

    I love that you posted this today — I’m planning our “class” on Holy Communion for second and third graders that starts this week, and I’m a bit lost. The UMC also welcomes folks to the table at any age… and I think it’s good to teach kids about what’s going on, and I’m certainly excited for the theological exercise of trying to figure out how to teach the sacrament to kids, but I can’t get behind parents holding their kids back until some magical age where they know what’s going on at the table (as if any of us really get it). We do announce that all people, children included, are welcome at the Table each time we celebrate it. Fiona takes communion — as of relatively recently — and I love that she is included. I can’t serve her myself, though. I’d just cry and cry.

  2. Katherine Says:

    I am so with both of you on this. One of my worst memories from church growing up was being prohibited from receiving communion – by my parents, not the UMC theology or policy. It rankles me to think that anyone’s first experience of Communion would be exclusion.

    Great story. Thanks for sharing it!

  3. Liv Larson Andrews Says:

    woot woot! I too love the sweet desire of children to partake in the sacraments. what isn’t fun about splashing in water and eating? It makes me think of infants first desiring their parent’s solid food: hey – that looks yummy.
    Of course the weight and meaning of communion goes beyond yummy, but thinking any of us can come to an “age of reason” about it kinda bugs me. Really? We all know what this is? In its fullness? No way. We are guests, and this food is gift.
    What a lovely story about the gift being shared abundantly.

  4. sko3 Says:

    When I was a student intern, I took this on as a project, and led a parents and kids workshop on communion. It was a one-timer, and was clearly advertised as not required, and that kids already taking communion were welcome, too. It was AWESOME. We had kids from 3-13 come, each with one or more parents. We let them get up close to the communion table and touch all the pieces there. They got to pick up a tray and see how heavy it was. They interviewed other adults about what communion meant to them, and we did something with the communion story. It was the highlight of my internship, I think, as it was just exactly what I’d hoped for—and I still remember some of the parents sharing with the kids—so powerful.

  5. Meika Says:

    I love this, Erica. Chloe’s first communion was when she was maybe three months old at our Lutheran church in Japan. She’d been baptized, but it was well before she’d started solids – in fact, I do believe that the body of Christ may have been her first solid food. :) Anyway, who is to say that God cannot administer his sacramental graces to small children?

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