All are welcome – including the youngest among us

By: Wendy Steger
Pastor, Learn 
January 2020 Newsletter

Little Ben was three years old, and his parents had brought him dutifully to Sunday morning worship. Ben was quite used to attending worship and had been a “regular” since birth, but this particular Sunday was different. Ben was upset. Just after Holy Communion, Ben began to demand, “I want a pancake!” A pancake? His mother tried her best to calm him. “It’s ok, Ben. I’ll make you some pancakes when we get home.” But this did nothing to calm him. He was crying and angry. Nothing would console this little boy who wanted a pancake. He wanted a pancake, and he wanted it now.  

It was only later that day after more conversation, that Ben’s mother realized that he hadn’t actually wanted a pancake. He had wanted a communion wafer. He had wanted to participate in the Lord’s Supper, just like his big sister and the adults around him.  

What do we say to Ben, his mother, and others who struggle in this same situation? Should this little boy, one who eagerly desires to participate fully in worship just like the “big people” around him, be prevented from the Lord’s Table? And what are we teaching him about the character of God if we tell him no?  

I am reminded of Matthew 19:14 when the disciples tried to keep the children away from Jesus, and he admonished them saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”  

Because God is the host of the Lord’s Supper, it is not our role to keep anyone away. If a child is eagerly seeking to participate fully in worship by receiving the body and blood of Jesus, we believe the Holy Spirit is at work drawing them into the body of Christ. Therefore, we support and welcome them to the table.  

At Shepherd of the Valley, we believe that Holy Communion is a sacred meal in which the presence, love, forgiveness, and mercy of Christ come to us in bread and wine. God is the host and invites everyone, regardless of age, understanding, or religious background to this table where faith is nourished.  

Holy Communion is a deep mystery, and our understanding of this sacrament is never fully complete. Throughout our lives, we continue to learn and grow in faith, nourished by the bread and wine which is the true presence of Christ. All are welcome to the table of grace, thanks be to God. 

If your young child is asking for communion, we support their full participation, because the gift of Jesus’ body and blood is a free gift of grace and mercy that comes without condition. We offer communion instruction three times a year for children of all ages along with their parents. Families are invited to worship the weekend following the class to experience a celebration of communion together.