For many Lutheran adults, our first taste of wafer and wine came on confirmation Sunday—accompanying white robes, red carnations and anxiety about memorized catechism answers.
Fast forward to today’s ELCA congregation. In most, first communion is no longer linked to confirmation day. In many congregations, fifth-, third- or second graders—even toddlers—leave the communion table chewing a piece of bread.
Parents, pastors—and the children—have The Use of the Means of Grace, the ELCA’s 1997 statement on the practice of word and sacrament, to thank for this change: “Baptized children begin to commune on a regular basis at a time determined through mutual conversation that includes the pastor, the child, the parents or sponsors involved, within the accepted practices of the congregation. Ordinarily this beginning will occur only when children can eat and drink, and can start to respond to the gift of Christ in the Supper.”
In recent decades children have increasingly joined the table: Most receive a blessing until they’ve completed communion instruction; many receive the sacrament before formal instruction. More than 50 readers in 18 states responded to The Lutheran’s query on this subject to say this is a good change.
Jim Torgerson, a member of Henrytown Lutheran Church, Canton, Minn., remembers well his first communion in the 1970s. His was the first class to commune prior to confirmation day. “My parents were so upset by this I think my mother nearly suffered a breakdown,” he recalled. For her sake, he waited until confirmation day to commune. Torgerson followed the same principle with his children but “as the years passed, I realized how absolutely ridiculous this was,” he said.
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© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers