DIME: Delving Into the Mystery of the Eucharist – Children & Eucharist
At what age should my child receive Communion? This is a question many parents ask as they are striving to raise their children in the Episcopal Church. Once we are baptized, regardless of our age, we are welcome to receive Communion. Our Book of Common Prayer (p. 858) indicates that, at the time of Baptism, we receive the inward and spiritual grace of union with Christ in his death and resurrection, birth into God’s family (the Church), forgiveness of sins, and new life in the Holy Spirit. Once a child is born into God’s family, that child is welcome to participate in Communion. This represents a change for many of us as parents since we may have had to wait until Confirmation or other instructional opportunities before taking our first Communion.
What caused this shift? The General Convention of 1970 resolved that “children might be admitted to communion before confirmation.” In 1971, the House of Bishops stated, “Confirmation should not be regarded as a procedure of admission to the Holy Communion.”
How does my child learn about the Eucharist? First and foremost, children learn from attending church. Here they can see and be a part of the service and begin to understand the sacrament they are seeing. Additionally, from your actions and discussions with your child, he/she sees that Communion is important and that participating in Communion is something you do on a regular basis. Children recognize your reverence at the altar from your body language (kneeling, placing your hands one over the other). For them to imitate you and your actions indicates that they have some understanding of the Eucharist’s importance. This is evident in the youngest of our children, even before they have had any formal Christian education.
How do I know if my child is ready for Communion? Has your child asked? Have you asked your child if he/she wants Communion? Does your child imitate your actions at the altar rail? Does your child watch what you do at the rail? Has your child put his/her hands out to receive? These are good signs that your child is ready.
The above being said, The Church of the Epiphany will reinforce what happens in families with a series of classes on the Eucharist for children who are age-appropriate to fully participate in the Eucharist. This series of four classes, beginning Sunday, April 27th, at 9:30 AM in the Parish Hall, will focus on the Eucharist’s importance in the life of the Church, the symbols of bread and wine, and what the symbols represent – the physical and spiritual presence of Jesus in the life of the believer. This is not a First Communion Class since many of Epiphany’s children already receive Communion. Rather, this is age-appropriate catechesis on the mystery of the Eucharist, which is why I have named it: DIME, or Delving Into the Mystery of the Eucharist. Parents are invited to participate in the classes. If you, as a parent, would like your child to be a part of this catechesis, please call the Church Office or talk to Fr. Matt so that a convenient time for the classes can be arranged.