The practice of the earliest Christians with regard to receiving Holy Communion is not clear but certainly whole households were baptised and it is assumed that children would have been included. It seems that Communion immediately followed Baptism, and there is no indication that children were excluded. The Eastern Orthodox Churches have always communicated children immediately after Baptism.
The subsequent divorce of Communion from Baptism has been the combined result of the theological preoccupations and practical circumstances of following centuries: e.g. the doctrine of original sin led to the promotion of infant Baptism; church expansion necessitated Baptism by priests rather than bishops, followed by laying on of hands by bishops during periodic tours; the failure of parishioners to present children to the bishop on these occasions contributed to the bishops demand that laying on of hands precede Communion; the development of laying on of hands into a rite involving the confirmation of baptismal vows produced an emphasis on the need for teaching before Confirmation.
The moves in recent times from afternoon to morning meetings of Sunday School, and towards Parish Communion as the regular Sunday service have led to a new practical situation in which children find themselves regularly in church at a service in which they cannot fully participate.
The tradition of the church regarding admission of children to Communion is not represented by a static norm but is characterised by a continued development in practice in the light of changing situations: in the spirit of this tradition, what developments are appropriate to our situation today?
We hope the pack of information and additional resources below will help you explore the opportunities offered when considering the admission of children to Holy Communion before Confirmation.
If you have any queries, or, if you would like a visit to your PCC or DCC meetings, please contact Stuart Currie.