I am immensely grateful to Laura and her blog in Lay Anglicana for the inspiration for this post.
Some readers will know that I recently left full-time ministry as a vicar to spend more time caring for my wife who is partially disabled.
One of the benefits of this has been to see our children (aged 11 and 13) grow spiritually in new and wonderful ways. We have been attending a non-Anglican church on Sunday evenings and their radically inclusive approach has been a hugely liberating experience for them.
First of all they have been set free from the embarrassment of having their dad at the front of church, and the fear of being ‘picked on’ as ‘willing’ volunteers in the sermons! But more importantly, they have been included in leading worship in ways which would make most Anglicans mind’s boggle.
Not only have they been invited to present readings and lead prayers, but that have also been asked to celebrate Communion – and much to my surprise and wonder, they have said ‘yes’ with confidence and enthusiasm.
Now I know this might seem a bit of a stretch for most members of established churches. After all, most churches in the Church of England still struggle with the idea of children receiving Communion, let alone celebrating it! This has never been an issue for our children. When they were 2 and 3 years old, I became vicar of a church whose practise was to give Communion to everyone who wanted to receive it – whatever their age. So from the first time they held their hands out at the communion rail, they have been included fully in this celebration of the Body of Christ - but to celebrate Communion was far beyond anything which would be permissible in the CofE, so this was something quite new.
The first time they were asked, they simply used the Communion prayer of the church, holding up bread and wine, and then stood alongside the church Minister as she then distributed Communion and prayed a personal prayer with each individual, couple or family group who came forward to receive.
The second time however, they went even further. Instead of them celebrating and the Minister distributing Communion, they did both. As each person, couple or family came forward, they gave them the bread and wine and prayed for them. By the time we were all seated again, half the congregation were in tears – tears of joy and blessing.
So yes – I do agree with Lay Anglicana that we need to start at childhood to train our worship leaders of the future – and that might take us further than we could ever envisage. It has been such a joy for Mel and I to see our children blessed by the opportunity to lead, and it has been such a blessing for the church to receive this ministry from children.
Wasn’t it Jesus who said "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Perhaps it is time we began to allow our children to show us how…?