Admission of Baptized Children to Holy Communion before Confirmation
Jesus welcomed and protected children and we know that in the Early Church whole families worshipped together. We also know that St Paul wrote to many churches to ensure that worship was conducted properly and with dignity by people of all ages.
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 baptized children to receive Holy Communion before confirmation subject to certain conditions.
Download Regulations: Adobe pdf file (75KB)
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.
Who decides whether your Church wants to go down this route?
It is essential to spend time consulting widely (children, parents, PCC, Ministry Team, Children and Families’ Leaders, the Diocesan Children’s Adviser) 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.
Download Application Form Word doc (267 KB)
Who may be admitted?
Baptism –or christening - has always been seen as the key rite of initiation into the Christian Church. The question is to what extent the baptized 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, baptized 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 baptized, 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.
Preparation of Children and Parents
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.
Resources for Preparation
The Resource Centre at Church House Guildford holds lending copies of published materials designed to assist in the preparation of children to receive Holy Communion. Click here for the catalogue and search for “children and communion” to see the current list of available materials relating to this subject.
Rite of Admission
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
Register and Certificates
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 Diocesan Children and Families’ Ministry Adviser
Children as Eucharistic Assistants (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.
Messy Church and Holy Communion
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
Holy Communion Services in Schools
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.