It was 1989. My youngest son was just a little baby, but he kicked his legs in excitement as we knelt at the altar rail and the pastor approached him with a large piece of communion bread. My baby devoured it greedily and I held him tight, waiting for the little individual glass of grape juice that I knew was to follow. I felt a little anxious. Our church had just finished a lengthy debate about whether or not children should participate in communion. Their questions and arguments stlll rang in my ears. Can a little child really understand the deep significance of bread and wine? Don't children need to attend classes, so that they can be taught to approach this holy sacrament with the reverence and respect it deserves? Is this really appropriate? We never had communion when we were children.
As a young mother, I, of course, strongly disagreed, and was thrilled when the resulting vote went in my favor. I knew without a doubt that as my baby reached out his chubby little hand to receive that glass cup, God would be smiling just as much as I was. But disaster was about to strike. I watched as my baby folded his fat fingers around the little cup, gulped down the grape juice, licked all around the rim just to make sure there were no droplets left, and promptly threw the glass on to the tiles below, where it smashed into a million tiny pieces. I was mortified, and I swear I could hear 'tut-tuts' behind me. But the pastor carried on as if nothing had happened. Months later, the congregation would laugh about that incident, as the Methodist church in England learned to embrace children at the communion table.
How glad I am to be part of a denomination that practices an openly inclusive table, where all are welcome! After all, who among us truly understands the deep significance of bread and wine?
This Sunday, our church family will celebrate communion together..the common meal. And as our babies and children reach out their chubby little hands to participate in this holy sacrament, I just know that I won't be the only one who is smiling.