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  • Jason Gaskin

Reframing Children and Holy Communion

I took this picture of Micah Gaddy breaking the communion bread and breaking and dispersing it on the grass after one of our worship gatherings a few weeks ago.

Our traditional view of discipleship for children and adults is sitting in a circle with a teacher explaining what it means to follow Christ.

For me this picture displays discipleship. It embodies a holy and sacred action that the Eucharist doesn’t just nourish the human body but all of creation.

Starting a New Faith Community where people come from a myriad of religious backgrounds has formed and shaped us in many ways. We all come from religious traditions that have beautifully shaped our lives while other parts have been traumatic, disappointing, and harmful.

I recognize the challenge it can be to come into a community that practices Holy Communion each week.

For many of us Holy Communion has been a guarded practice in the life of the church. It was a closed table for those who were faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, had sincerely repented of their sins, and were members of that particular church.

We as a community have sought to reframe the practice of holy communion in a radical way. And in particular that this table is open to all. Open to those who profess Christ, open to those who haven’t developed language yet enjoy delicious bread and juice, open to those who question and doubt their faith, open to those who are agnostic and atheist, open to those who don’t know, open to those trying to figure out their journey. And most importantly open to children.

Our hope is that through this practice is that we might recognize that we are in deep solidarity with one another no matter where we are on our journey as we go out into the world each week.

Particularly important and significant is that we are teaching and offering to our children the beauty of this practice and a radical open invitation to participate in this sacred act.

This in itself can be challenging when children, particularly young children, can be loud, wiggly, and boisterous, which can sometimes impede the solemn nostalgia of this practice in former contexts that we have come from.

Traditional in many contexts is that the leftover elements of bread and juice are disposed outside into creation or are consumed by the priest/pastor. For some, this act is because the elements have been consecrated so it is desecrating to throw them in the trash or to pour the juice down the drain.

I take on a more theologically practical view that we are joining with all of creation into this holy work of bringing about the restorative work of Christ by dispersing the elements outside our gathering area.

In the previous churches I served there tended to be one person who cleaned up after Holy Communion. Their practice was often to throw the leftover bread in the trash and then pour the juice down the sink. I would ask them politely to disperse the juice outside and to break the bread up and throw it outside.

And then the next time we participated in Holy Communion… the person would throw the bread in the trash and the juice down the sink. This service and practice was engrained deeply and no wet behind the ears pastor was going to change this.

Yet now at Storied Church people like my friend Amy would take my son, Isaac, and other children outside after worship and break the bread up for the birds and squirrels and pour the juice into the ground week after week. It became an exciting communal process. Adults and children together dispersing this meal that brought our community together for creation to feast alongside us.

We have a lot of conversations in our community about children. How much are children involved in our Sunday morning gatherings? What programs should we think about creating for our children? How should children act in a worship space? And these are vital conversations that our community needs to have and journey together in search of the answers.

But at the same time, this picture of Micah (who also makes sure that our Christ candle is lit before our worship gathering) is also held. After our worship gathering, he has taken the bread himself, takes it outside to break it into pieces, and disperses the bread.

I think about all the different ways we have been harmed by this sacrament of Holy Communion. The ways in which some of us might have been harmed and hurt by it. It made us feel like we didn’t belong and weren’t included. And then I see how Micah and the other children are learning and experiencing this holy practice in a new and life-giving way.

A sacrament that says that they belong, one which invites them into this holy work of being the hands and feet of Jesus. A practice that invites the messiness of being a child and figuring out the world.

And it displays to us the essence of discipleship for children showing all of us that we are all in this holy work together and that none of us are left out of this narrative.


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