It’s hard going when your own children start to question why your practice as a minister has changed in the move between two charges. Particularly hard-going when the perspective they are arguing is actually your preferred position and yet you know that perhaps that perspective might be one that has to be waited for.
Recent weeks have had the young people in the house question me about why they no longer get to come to communion services, but more than that, why they are no longer allowed to receive communion. It has been hard trying to explain that the position of the family gathering around the Lord’s Table is still important to me, but that sometimes we have to be patient in the waiting .
You can also see that it is hard for them. In our last place we had worked hard towards a position where there were two communions each year that were specified as “church family communion”. A balance had been struck between the formal quarterly communion, informal monthly communion and the two dates where the whole church family shared the meal together.
Formal communion still involved procession and dignity for those for whom it mattered. “Ye gates” had its outing specially for the season, dark suits were worn by most elders. And while there was formality, in the first 15-20mins of the service the Sunday School and Young People were present. So while they would not participate, they knew what was happening and at least in some small way were reminded they were part of the community.
Informal monthly communion happened post worship in the months when there was no formal communion. It was a small but loyal bunch of people who would gather to enjoy the experience of God’s grace. No children, but they were never told they could not come. And on a Sunday at midday sometimes lunch is important as is going out to play.
Then at Easter and Harvest we had introduced “family communion”. It started at a Harvest service, but the ground work had been laid in the previous year. At an earlier harvest, there had been a Saturday afternoon where the children had made bread and talked about the significance of bread to the church community. One child (not mine) had asked the question about why they were not allowed to have communion. So the following year before the bread-making day there had been a discussion about children at communion at Kirk Session. The result was a majority decision to try a family communion. At the next bread-making day, the children made their bread, talked about the significance, and then practised for the harvest service the next day knowing where they were to sit, and where to walk to in order to share the bread. On the Sunday some parents and adults were selected to distribute the wine.
Unlike a formal communion, the instructions of who was to be served by the children were given verbally, and those in the pew identified to be markers all helpfully waved for the children to see. Then when the children reached them they would ensure that all around them had received.
For the most part the family communions were well-received, and the children looked forward to their bread-making day. Sometimes the hardest thing was trying to work out which children might have to miss helping with the serving.
However everything that happened resulted from careful planning and waiting for the right time. All was a natural progression.
I think that is the way it has to be otherwise people feel that they have been pushed towards something they are not ready for. Although if you know me well then you will know there I also believe there is a time for grasping the nettle and making a decision.
On this one though it’s one step at a time, but I also will have to work out how to resolve the questions of two young people who at the moment feel they have been removed from a table to which they were once welcomed.