Saturday, August 18, 2007

Early Communion

I link to an article on the idea of early communion, advanced on Cyberbrethren. It is worth some debate. I find it disquieting, and not because I appose early communion. I began training children for confirmation earlier, in my last parish, due to the pressures of the culture and society, and the eagerness of the children. I don't see age as an impediment. When they are ready, they are ready.

The defense of the idea - the case that the author, Pastor Rick Stuckwisch, was making began to sound oddly like, "Oh, what the heck! Let's do it!"

I respect Pastor Stuckwisch, and believe he is sincere and careful. I suspect, however that the approach he and Rev. McCain are advancing would tend back to the Roman practice of first communion at about first grade, whether the child is prepared or not. At least the practice of instruction for confirmation before communion gives us a fighting chance to pound something into the heads of the children. I am not opposed to the very utilitarian nature of the practice which gives us the confirmation class years to teach. We need to get something into the child's brain about Christian doctrine. Memory work is good too. What we get in there the Holy Spirit can call up for use any time. What isn't there cannot be recalled. Changing the practice to earlier communion isn't a real answer to the questions people raise - including the Rev. McCain - about the age of confirmation. It is simply moving the same questions from 14 to 6. We will then be facing the question of why not just commune infants - and some Lutherans are asking that already.

The Lord's Supper is not required for salvation. It is not a sine qua non as Baptism is (and we have people debating the necessity of Baptism!). I don't like the graduation idea, either, but we can use the opportunity to instruct. I think the current practice is useful.

I know that faithful pastors like Rev. Stuckwisch will exercise his spiritual oversight faithfully. But when the practice is established, those who follow may not. It is hard enough to get pastors to do confirmation instruction now. Imagine how careless many would be if first communion were at first grade, and there was no incentive to endure or demand what is now confirmation instruction.

I know, it is the parent's responsibility. (That takes a load off my pastor's head.) I am all for admitting those who are ready to the altar - meaning those who understand what the Supper is, and are capable of examining themselves. But let's not set a bad rule in place. I think the age should stay where it is and exceptions be made when individual Christians demonstrate that they are ready.

That's my $.02 worth.

No comments: