Children and Communion: How I stuffed up

Have you ever been in a position where you made a spontaneous decision and then immediately regretted it – even if it was the right decision? 

Last Sunday we had communion.  Communion is really important to me – it brings together just about every strand of Christian belief and puts it all into a single, worshipful, moment.  So I don’t take it lightly or see it as the place to experiment with new ideas.  But because of the events of the last few weeks, I was going into Sunday’s service with a good deal less preparation than I liked.  Sunday morning I still hadn’t decided who I was going to ask to help me serve communion, when I had what felt like a brainwave; we were looking at what God has done in the life of a child (Lizzie Pawson) to make a difference.  The children would be in the service, since it was a School Holiday.  I should ask the children to help me serve.  So I did. 

And then, after they had done a fantastic job of very carefully and respectfully serving the congregation, they returned to the table – and stood there, looking at me.  Normally, when the communion assistants return to the table, I then serve them too.  What should I do?  I hesitated, then took the plunge.

I explained that normally, we don’t invite children to join us in communion, because communion is fellowship in the Body of Christ, and the Body of Christ is made up of believers who have been baptised.  And we don’t baptise children who are not of an age to make that commitment.  But here were these children, and they are part of our church family.  So I wanted them to share, this day, in our communion.  And they did.

That’s what happens when I don’t think things through; when I don’t plan.  I was caught between two conflicting theologies and I had to decide between them.  On the one hand I had my theology of Baptism and the Church.  On the other hand my theology of children and their place in God’s kingdom.  Which was going to get priority?  I gave it to the children.

As a result, at least one adult has been so offended that she cannot tolerate my ministry any longer.  On the plus side, all the parents I have spoken with were quite happy with my decision, despite my not consulting them first (which was also bad practice!). 

Maybe I was right to decide as I did in that spot, but I think I was very wrong to allow myself to get to a spot like that where I had to make that decision. 

A couple of my elders have suggested that maybe God wanted me in precisely that spot; outside of my own plans so that his plans could happen.  I’m not convinced, I still think I was wrong.

But I’m clearer now about where I’m coming from.  A year ago we decided as a church to focus on welcoming families.  Biblically, family is the natural context for communion, which occurred in family households as part of an ordinary meal.  The Passover, which is where Jesus initiated communion, is very much a family meal.  I don’t want to downgrade our communion, or eliminate the ritual aspects of it, but I would like to see it regain some of the warmth, the friendliness, and the grounded-in-reality family nature of those New Testament love-feasts. 

Maybe God did give me a nudge when we needed it last Sunday.

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