Under the arrangements agreed by the House of Bishops and the Synod, parishes are encouraged to consider offering children the opportunity to receive Holy Communion before they have been confirmed. The General Synod, at its session in February 2006 finalised earlier less formal arrangements by passing Regulations under Canon B15A.1(c).
Theologically, the basis for this is the interrelationships between the Rites of Initiation as we have received them in the Church of England. It is in the light of what God has done, and the clear undertaking made by parents and Godparents at a child's baptism to bring this person to confirmation, that it is possible to consider children receiving Holy Communion before their confirmation.
Parents and Godparents need help in seeing the importance of this as a framework for bringing the child up in the Christian faith, as members of the Christian Church and so into adult vocational life. The Church needs to ensure that it has provided the necessary systems of pastoral care and Christian nurture to make this a real possibility. In this way, in the process, the link is firmly held between baptism, admission to Holy Communion and confirmation.
This process fits with the developmental needs of children and young people. Normally, seven years of age will be the earliest at which children should receive the sacrament in the Diocese of Guildford.
How is this to happen?
- The Parish Priest initiates the process by requesting the PCC to agree, in principle, to children receiving Communion in the parish before they are confirmed. Before the Bishop gives consent, a clear (if not unanimous) resolution of the PCC is needed, indicating that this is their wish, as well as that of the Parish Priest, and setting out their commitment to a process of Christian nurture for all involved, which makes pastoral and evangelistic sense of the policy
- Accompanying the PCC Resolution should be an outline of the parish programme for the nurture of these children and the support of them and their families
- The parish must have in place a realistic and attainable programme, which will bring children to confirmation. The minimum age for confirmation is normally 12, but parishes which opt to introduce children into the Eucharistic fellowship of the church may want to wait until a later age
- The Bishop expects the Parish to have consulted with the Children and Families Ministry Adviser in the Diocese over these arrangements, who will advise the Bishop before he grants permission