Rector's August 2014 Letter

There are a lot of ‘New Beginnings’ in the air as I write this, and over the next few months.  Young people are saying goodbye to their old schools and moving on to the next exciting stage; students are graduating and starting jobs; a record number of Marriages are being celebrated in our churches and also several baptisms, of babies, older children and adults!  Our five Confirmation candidates have been confirmed at a lovely service at St Margaret’s Littleham, and will be joining in as full members of our congregations going forward.

In addition, the younger brother of one confirmation candidate has become the first child in our group of churches to be ‘admitted to Holy Communion before confirmation’.  This is a relatively new idea in the Church of England, although our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters have always followed the practice, and the Orthodox church expects babies to receive Holy Communion right from the time of their baptism!  It goes right back to the earliest practice of the church, when to be baptised meant automatically to be received into full membership of the church, and all the training and preparation that we now associate with Confirmation would be done as preparation for Baptism.

As so many are baptised as infants in modern times, confirmation in the Church of England has traditionally been seen as the point at which someone would begin to receive the bread and wine of Holy Communion, and it is often forgotten that Confirmation is about a lot more than that; that it is the point at which we recognise that a young person has developed an adult faith of their own and we ask the Holy Spirit to fill them and help them to live out their own Christian lives.  But now, as we try to involve young and old members of the church equally in Communion services, especially our informal Family Communions, it may well be that more children will ask to be admitted to Holy Communion at a younger age, and only later Confirmed.

Some of us who were prepared for confirmation before receiving Communion may worry that younger children do not really understand ‘what Holy Communion is all about’.  The answer to that has to be that none of us really understand it; the ‘inward and spiritual grace’ of the sacrament is something that we could spend a lifetime trying to ‘understand’ and yet a child could be open to it.  It is about heart and Spirit, not about ‘head knowledge’.  Children receive some preparation appropriate to their age, and are then admitted by the parish priest at a local service.  They would still be confirmed at a later date by the Bishop.

 

Chris is on holiday this month, but thought you would be interested in this update as it arose partly from one of his previous articles.  He writes:

“I am writing this from Perpignan! Yesterday we caught the Eurostar from St Pancras to Avignon - a new service that runs once a week leaving early in the morning from a chilly London and arriving at 2pm in the gloriously balmy climate of the south of France!
            Last year, at this time, I wrote about our reluctance to fly on environmental grounds but how we had succumbed owing to the sheer cost and impracticability of getting to Copenhagen any other way.
            When we saw the new service advertised we booked and then found places to stay on Airbnb in Avignon , Perpignan and Barcelona.
            Apart from our train leaving 2 1/2 hours late we had an incredibly smooth journey and found our accommodation right in the heart of the old city of Avignon with its narrow streets. We hadn't realised it is the Annual Festival and the whole town was full of street theatre and visitors. An atmosphere out of this world!

            Only thing we didn't have time for was a walk 'sur le point'. Maybe when we are waiting to catch the Eurostar back to London in 2 week's time !”
 


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