Thinking Anglicans

Holy Communion in the Church in Wales to be open to all the baptised – 2

Updated Thursday

I linked earlier to the Pastoral Letter from the bishops of the Church in Wales opening Holy Communion to all the baptised. At that time the letter was only available on the website of the diocese of St Davids. It has now been published on the provincial website, along with this press release:

Confirmation no longer required for Holy Communion – Bishops’ letter

Anyone who has been baptised will be able to receive Holy Communion in church, regardless of whether they have also been confirmed, under new guidance coming into effect in November.

The Church in Wales is re-adopting the practice of the early church on admission to Communion – the sharing of bread and wine – in an effort to strengthen ministry to children and young people in particular.

In recent times, people wishing to receive Communion have usually had to have been confirmed first – confirming promises made on their behalf at their baptism as infants. However, from the First Sunday in Advent – November 27 – everyone who has been baptised will be able to receive Holy Communion. The policy will be rolled out across the parishes and ministry areas over the next year…

As well as the pastoral letter itself, there are three other related documents available for download.

Pastoral Letter
Theological Background
Church Guidance
Congregation Guidance

These links are to pdfs of the English versions. Welsh versions, and Word documents are also available.

Update

David Pocklington and Frank Cranmer of Law & Religion UK have a helpful summary of the new documents, and of the law about giving alcohol to the under-fives, here.

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JCFHenry deeSavi HensmanWilliam (Bill) Paul IIICharles Read Recent comment authors
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Russell
Guest
Russell

Glad to see this in principle, but the papers seem slightly confused about whether children are still to be “admitted” to Holy Communion, with that moment being prepared for and marked. They are to be given a certificate of first communion. But how will a priest know if a visiting child who receives Holy Communion is doing so for the first time? The suggested invitation doesn’t invite those who usually receive Holy Communion, but anyone who is baptized– which suggests that no preparation at all is envisaged for a First Communion beyond the service itself at which Holy Communion is… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

It is called decline. Unless they do this, they will end up with next to no one attending communion, except those who don’t know the rules. When does shrinkage reach a critical mass (pun intended) that things start to fall in?

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Aha! One more fence removed. Congratulations Church in Wales!

Father David
Guest
Father David

Wow! At long last something “Orthodox” from the Church in Wales! I suppose that when you are only attracting 1% of the total population residing on the other side of Offa’s Dyke – you have to come up with some dramatic solution in an attempt to increase your Communicant figures.

Tom Downs
Guest
Tom Downs

A bishop friend, when approached by an anxious parent who wondered if her child was too young to understand the sacrament, inquired of her if she understood the sacrament. He answered her fears: “It’s a mystery; perfect understanding is not required.”

Kate
Guest
Kate

Tom, the bishop is so right.

Savi Hensman
Guest
Savi Hensman

I understand there is a case for offering communion even to infants but believe the ‘Theological Background’ rather worryingly misses the point of potential concerns. Surely these are not about the worthiness of children to receive God’s love but rather respect for their autonomy and willingness to wait for their informed consent to deny themselves, take up the cross and follow Christ? As Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry pointed out in 1982, ‘In the eucharist, Christ empowers us to live with him, to suffer with him and to pray through him as justified sinners… The eucharistic celebration demands reconciliation and sharing… Read more »

Perry Butler
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Perry Butler

At the local parish here in Sewanee Tenn where I am currently staying it just seemed very natural…though children / babies were all with their parents.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Yes, there is a strange conundrum surrounding our approach to reception of the Eucharist. On the one hand, we are warned in Scripture not to receive the Body and Blood of Christ ‘unworthily’. And yet, in the Prayer of Humble Access we atcually declare our ‘unworthiness’. For me, a priest of the Church, I have to admit to my own ‘unworthiness’ to receive Christ in the Eucharist, but still He welcomes me! And Jesus did say, “suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for OF SUCH is the Kingdom of Heaven”. Trump that! As someone… Read more »

Daniel Berry, NYC
Guest
Daniel Berry, NYC

The Eastern Church has communicated infants, time out of mind. How can that be a problem? Does Baptism confer church membership or does it not?

Geoffrey
Guest
Geoffrey

Savi writes: “Surely these [concerns] are not about the worthiness of children to receive God’s love but rather respect for their autonomy and willingness to wait for their informed consent to deny themselves, take up the cross and follow Christ?”

Those are concerns about infant baptism, however, rather than Communion per se. Once a church baptizes infants, the rest just follows on.

Anne Le Bas
Guest
Anne Le Bas

Savi said: “I understand there is a case for offering communion even to infants but believe the ‘Theological Background’ rather worryingly misses the point of potential concerns. Surely these are not about the worthiness of children to receive God’s love but rather respect for their autonomy and willingness to wait for their informed consent to deny themselves, take up the cross and follow Christ?” I think I understand the concern, but there is a sense in which children too young to make their own decision are in any case involved in the risk and sacrifice their parents make, whether they… Read more »

Sara MacVane
Guest
Sara MacVane

Savi Hensman’s comments are well taken, as always, but on the other hand, as a priest who always gives HC to the newly baptised, including babies and children, if the parents agree, I remember a story which bishop John Flack once told me. He said that when he was 7 yrs old, he told his parish priest that he wanted to receive Holy Communion. The priest told him he was “too young to understand” the meaning of the sacrament. “He was right of course that I didn’t understand the sacred mystery”, said Bishop John, “and I still don’t,” He was… Read more »

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

Re Daniel Berrys post. Its my understanding that the western church also comminicated babies/ children until about the 13c It is not often known that the Hussites demanded not only the restoration of the chalice to the laity but also the restoration of infant communion.

Daniel Berry, NYC
Guest
Daniel Berry, NYC

@ Perry Butler: Thanks for that bit of information. I’ve often found much to admire in the Hussites and similar groups. One of the anomalies of Savi Hensman’s position is failure to recognize the importance of inclusion and nurture in the body of Christ. As to the taking up the cross part, that similarly must be nurtured into us. How young is too young to begin teaching a person to look away from her or himself and think about others? I still require daily coaching in this area, and i’ve not missed a Sunday and Holy Day communion in more… Read more »

Charles Read
Guest
Charles Read

Yes, Perry Butler is correct. Baptism led to communion in the early centuries.

I find that many theological colleges do not teach ordinands about the history of initiation and hence how the separation of baptism from communion is an accident, as is the development of confirmation in the middle ages in the west.

Students on the Eastern Region Ministry Course, including Readers, are of course well taught about the history of initiation!

William (Bill) Paul III
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William (Bill) Paul III

“Baptism led to communion in the early centuries.” I could register the point about what we don’t know in the first and second century, but what we do know, for sure, is that preparation for baptism of adults was far, far more intense, thorough, and prolonged than is customary with us today communion-wide. I read the movement expressed in most of the comments above as a continuing trend to lessen our zeal for catechesis and conversion. The comments by the Bishop who said he doesn’t “perfectly” understand communion (as if that were the issue) are not, for me, an occasion… Read more »

Savi Hensman
Guest
Savi Hensman

Anne, you make a strong point, which I wish had come across in the Church in Wales’ communications on this matter. Daniel, regarding inclusion and nurture in the Body of Christ, including taking up the cross, should there not be an element of choice in aspects of this, made when a person can comprehend what this means? For instance I think of relatives and friends who have put their lives on the line to defend love and justice but I would be intensely uneasy at an infant in my family doing the same. I would even feel uncomfortable about asking… Read more »

Henry dee
Guest
Henry dee

As someone who has started going to the Orthodox Church it’s wonderful to see young children receive communion and to venerate the icons. You have to remember though that orthodoxy doesn’t change to suit the changing modern world. As it was in the beginning is now and will be tomorrow.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“At long last something “Orthodox” from the Church in Wales! I suppose that when you are only attracting 1% of the total population … you have to come up with some dramatic solution in an attempt to increase your Communicant figures.”

I both give&receive snark around here. But I’m “Orthodox” enough to feel compelled to say that this level of cynicism ***re Our Lord’s Body & Blood*** is entirely uncalled for (“And you a priest”, Father David)