Children and the Body of Christ
As communion was distributed, an 8-year-old boy paid close attention. He was very interested in what was going on and started to take a wafer. His mother leaned over and told him that he was not old enough to be a part of Communion. Later, when the collection plate came by he ignored it. His mother again leaned over and this time tried to coax a coin out of him. He steadfastly refused, stating, “If I’m not old enough to eat, I’m not old enough to pay!”
Whilst this is amusing, it also carries a very serious message about attitudes that make children feel a part of the church, and attitudes that make them feel like unwanted guests at an adult activity.
Over my 9 years in Cirencester one of the things I am proudest of is how we brought the Good News of Jesus to young people. The church tends to look like those who run it, and so often that means it looks like a club where young people (and their children) don’t belong.
As a part of actively trying to make our church more welcoming to young people, each year I would prepare children to take First Holy Communion. Surprisingly for me, preparing children to become a full member of their church family, proved to be one of the most significant experiences of my ministry.
Many have questioned the wisdom of admitting children under the age of 12 to communion. I must confess that I had my doubts too, but each year, as these children first received the body of Christ, something special happened. The Holy Spirit blew through the whole church, and some of God’s precious children drew closer to Him, and became more intricately entwined in His body, the church.
When one is ordained, there is a tradition that people line up before the new priest to receive a first blessing from them. Each year, as we admitted children into receiving the body of Christ, I felt like asking for their blessing in the same way. They were especially blessed by God, and it was a special day for all of us who shared in God’s blessings through them.
One of the things I think we may learn from children and the Eucharist, is that being a Christian isn’t about logical comprehension or knowing things. It is actually about the simple desire to draw closer to God. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” I am greatly enriched by God’s little ones, who often receive the spirit in such a pure and simple way compared with us complicated grownups!
Fr. Howard Gilbert
I think we all enjoy receiving a gift to unwrap at Christmas. I include myself in this respect. The greatest gift I am given each Christmas is that, at least once at one of the Christmas services, I have the amazing experience of listening to, or even reading, the first few verses of John’s Gospel.
They are as follows:
‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God....What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.’
‘And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.’
Autumn is one of my most favourite seasons with all the richness of colour around us. Pic- tures never seem to do it justice and artists try to get the autumnal colours right but there’s nothing better than viewing all them yourself. It can be an awesome experience what God has given us in creation.
As the countryside flourishes I look around me in the profound silence and I give thanks to the Creator. How could I not? When after all we live in an area of outstanding natural beauty. How do we describe it? I have heard some say it is like heaven on earth. Others use the word ‘awesome’ which is a distressingly overused word nowadays, but it was for this that the word was intended. I think that for many people today an approach to the divine is made most easily through the natural world. I might like to think that being introduced to the person of Jesus would bring people to their knees, but experience suggests that, in our highly secularised culture, a walk on the hills or digging in a garden is, for many people, a surer guide to the geography of God. This is where Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s words ring true for many people:
By the time you read this letter I do hope that we will be having sunny days to enable us to enjoy our gardens and walking on the common. We have had a long cold snowy winter so it is wonderful to have better weather to look forward to so we can enjoy the surrounding countryside we are fortunate to have.
When May arrives, I think of Minchinhamp-ton getting back to normal with the cows on the Common holding up the traffic as usual and amusing us as the Highlanders wander through the High Street displaying their fine horns!
I always get excited at this time of year when everything in God’s creation awakens from the harshness of winter and the dark evenings are getting shorter. We have the snowdrops, crocuses and now the daffodils are poking their heads up and in sheltered spots they are even flowering. The evenings are getting lighter and the birds in the garden are becoming more active especially on days when the sun shines. Doesn’t it just lift your spirits! And all of this is the glory of what God has given us in creation.
I reflect each day in thanksgiving and gratitude to God for giving me the eight years of ministry among all of you and for all that we have done together. I would not be able to serve you without your great encouragement, help and love.