Oct 3, 2015

Kids & Communion -- 10 Things to Tell Them

One of the things I love to do is teach kids about communion. It's an ongoing conversation for all of us and kids are certainly able to relate to it in deeper ways at different times in their lives. Since we don't offer "First Communion" -- having recaptured the ancient understanding of baptism as full inclusion in the community of the faithful -- I do think it's important to offer instruction at various points throughout our kids' lives.

Occasionally I'll encounter a parent who disagrees with the Episcopal Church's policy and believes there should be a formal process for admitting a child to communion. Our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters do just that and it can be most difficult for parents who grew up in that tradition. "How can they possibly understand it?" they'll ask me as they gaze upon their three-year-old running circles in the parish hall at coffee hour. My response, occasionally uttered out loud, is always, "Well, do YOU? And, if so, could you kindly explain it to me?"

The point is, there is always mystery associated with receiving a sacrament that touches the very heart of God. Divine love is something we are always living into and experiencing in new and life-giving ways. We can never understand it fully, but children often have great insights into the love of God made manifest through Jesus Christ.

And anyway, children may not fully understand the theology of the sacrament but they certainly understand exclusion. Being excluded from the table is a lousy way to introduce children to the concept of Christian community.

While I have a number of topics I like to cover with young children -- some theological, some practical -- here are a few points I always like to highlight.

1. Communion is a holy meal, not a Happy Meal. Although as a holy meal it can certainly make
you happy.

2. Communion is not a snack -- we don't take communion just because we're hungry in the middle of the service. That's what Goldfish during Sunday School are for. It's a meal for the soul, not the body.

3. Communion is not a to-go meal. Finish it at the communion rail. There are no communion doggie bags.

4. There is no "Kids' Table" at church. Everyone, regardless of age, is welcome to receive at the Lord's Table.

5. Communion connects us to Jesus.

6. Communion connects us to the disciples at the Last Supper and everyone who, like us, have followed Jesus for hundreds and thousands of years.

7. Take, Bless, Break, Give -- that's the four-fold action of the Eucharist. Start chanting!

8. A priest can't do this by him/herself. Being a priest is like having a super power you can't use by yourself. Unless you're here, I can't celebrate communion. The priest needs you!

9. The ordinary becomes extraordinary. Through the priest's prayers and your participation, ordinary bread and wine become extraordinary.

10. The word "communion" means connection. When we take communion, our connection, or relationship, with Jesus and one another is made stronger.

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