“…I am enormously excited that, I think for the first time, the Church of England is putting children, young people, schools, families and households at the very heart of its strategy.”
Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York 2020 address to General Synod
Ministry among children and families is always a great privilege but it is especially exciting now that it is central to the vision and strategies of the national Church and the Diocese of Guildford.
The Children and Families Mission Enabler, Emma Coy, would love to hear from you if you’re hoping to build up your ministry in this area.
These are some wonderful organisations and websites that help to grow family-friendly worship and build new contacts. Explore what they all have to offer and speak to Emma Coy if you want to experiment with something new.
Care for the Family
Going 4 growth
Open the Book
Parenting for faith
Roots on the Web
The Children’s Society
Life Events/Baptism on the Church Support Hub
KICK – transforming young lives through sport
- Beyond the Children’s corner by Margaret Pritchard-Houston
- Worship for Everyone by Nick and Becky Drake
- It takes a church to raise a parent by Rachel Turner
Children and communion
More than a third of the parishes in this diocese have applied for and received permission from the Bishop to admit children to Holy Communion before confirmation. If you or your PCC are considering this, here are some issues for reflection.
For centuries, the traditional practice in the Church of England was that confirmation was the pre-requisite for receiving Holy Communion. The General Synod, at its session in February 2006, passed Regulations under Canon B15A.1c to allow baptised children to receive Holy Communion before confirmation subject to certain conditions.
By 2018, more than a third of the parishes in this Diocese had applied for and received permission from the Bishop to admit children to Holy Communion before confirmation. If you or your PCC are considering this, here are some issues for reflection.
It is essential to spend time consulting widely (children, parents, PCC, Ministry Team, Children and Families’ Leaders, the Mission Enabler Children & Families) and exploring the issues as well as seeking wisdom from nearby parishes who already admit children.
The PCC must agree, in principle, to children receiving Holy Communion before Confirmation. A clear (if not unanimous) resolution of the PCC is required indicating that this is their wish as well as that of the incumbent.
The PCC also sets out its commitment to a process of Christian nurture for all involved which makes pastoral and evangelistic sense of the policy. An outline of the plan for the development of these children and their parents needs to be included on the application form.
Baptism - or christening - has always been seen as the key rite of initiation into the Christian Church. The question is to what extent the baptised are full members and how that affects their ability to participate fully in the Eucharist. It could be argued that, as in the Orthodox tradition, baptised babies should be offered wine and bread immediately and regularly. However, the diocesan view is that there does need to be some level of basic understanding.
Children may be admitted to Holy Communion at the incumbent’s discretion providing that the child has been baptised, the children and parent/s are in agreement and that the child has been prepared. The needs of the children and their ability to understand/accept Holy Communion must be taken into account. Some understanding is required – hence the need for preparation - but the level of understanding needs to be considered in relation to the child’s age and circumstances. Scripturally, we might note the parallel to be found in Nehemiah 8.2 where Ezra reads the Law to ‘men and women and all who were able to understand.’
Any setting of an age limit is arbitrary and, therefore, this should be left to the incumbent’s discretion. However, we would not anticipate that children under the age of 5 would be admitted to communion before confirmation Communion.
When parents and godparents bring infants to baptism, it is with the clear undertaking that they will bring the child to confirmation at a later date. Parents take primary responsibility for the spiritual welfare of their children and it is crucial that they are involved in making this decision and in the preparation of their child for admission to communion. They may need help to see the importance of this as a framework for bringing up children in the Christian faith as members of the Christian Church and so into life as adult disciples. The Church must ensure that it provides the necessary systems of pastoral care and nurture to make this a real possibility. In this way, the link is firmly held between baptism, admission to Holy Communion and Confirmation.
Parents should be fully aware of the content of the preparation and, if possible, included in the sessions. An explanation of Confirmation should be included in the preparation.
The Mission Enabler Children and Families, at Church House Guildford, holds lending copies of published materials designed to assist in the preparation of children to receive Holy Communion. Please get in touch if you would like to view or borrow these.
It is important to mark the end of the preparation in a public way as children begin to receive Holy Communion
A rite of admission can be found in Common Worship: Rites on the Way
Each child formally admitted to Holy Communion must have their name and date of first admission entered in the bright green parish register (pub Canterbury Press) designed for that purpose. Children must also be given written evidence that they have been admitted to Holy Communion, including the place and date of their first Communion. The incumbent’s signature may be added to their baptism certificate – or they may be given a certificate designed for the purpose. A PDF of a sample certificate can be obtained by contacting the Mission Enabler Children and Families.
(with thanks to the diocese of Peterborough)
Children may serve as Eucharistic Assistants in those parishes where children are admitted to receive Communion before Confirmation. Only those children who have been admitted will be eligible to serve in this way. Selection will be, as for adults, a matter for the incumbent with the agreement of the PCC. This is an appropriate development for those parishes where children receive Communion regularly. It may also be right for Church School Communion services with the agreement of the Head Teacher. If children are invited to be Eucharistic Assistants they should occupy the role fully and not only serve other children.
Some Messy Church acts of worship already include Holy Communion. Any plans for starting Messy Church should consider how to move towards sacramental worship. As with all fresh expressions a priest should always preside at a Messy Church Communion service and leaders need to seek out and use sensitive ways of including those (who may be the majority present) who cannot yet receive bread and wine.
This paper produced by the Liturgical Commission and Messy Church offers helpful guidance. Holy Communion in Messy Church: Some Help for Anglicans Advent 2017 PDF
This is quite a complex topic especially for primary schools as it involves pupils from different parishes and contexts who may or may not have been admitted to Holy Communion in their home parish. Please read the Diocesan Collective Worship Guidelines produced by the Board of Education and follow their lead. Should you wish to discuss this further, please contact Jane Whittington, Schools Officer Christian Distinctiveness.
- Wide consultation happens before the incumbent invites the PCC to pass a resolution in support of admitting children to Holy Communion. (Partners need to be consulted if the church is part of an LEP.)
- The application form is completed and sent to the Mission Enabler Children and Families, Church House, 20 Alan Turing Road, Guildford, GU2 7YF who will then forward it to the Bishop with his/her recommendation.
- Plans are made for the preparation of the children, the adults having parental responsibility for them, and the wider congregation; as well as the children’s on-going nurture towards Confirmation. Parents and children are invited to the preparation sessions.
- The children's baptism should be authenticated.
- A date is set for children to receive Holy Communion for the first time.
- Either the children’s baptism certificates are adapted or a separate certificate prepared in order to carry the necessary information.
- The parish register is updated.