A few Sundays ago, one of our three 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 three year old go up and the three 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. Her parents sort of wondered about this, and Harrison explained that current PC(USA) 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, and juice staining the clothes lining the baskets.
I love our church’s policy on communion and children. 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 that 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.