First Communion and Confirmation
St Mary’s, Linton, is a parish which has admitted children to receive Holy Communion for several years. According to the Diocese of Ely’s guidance, children who would like to be admitted to Holy Communion need to have the full support of their parents, and spend a few weeks preparing for this important event by learning more about their faith in a small group, and specifically talking about what receiving the bread (and wine) of Holy Communion will mean to them.
Some children, when they first become communicants, prefer only to receive the bread; this is quite acceptable, and can be discussed during the preparation period.
At St Mary’s, we advertise the opportunity to prepare for First Communion each year after Easter, and we normally expect children being prepared to be aged 7 or older.
In the Church of England, Confirmation is the opportunity for people to say publicly for themselves that they accept the Christian faith into which they were baptised. It is also the occasion on which they receive a very special blessing from a bishop, who represents the wider church beyond our own congregation. The bishop prays for the candidates to be spiritually strengthened (‘confirmed’) by God’s Holy Spirit, and lays hands on their heads. As well as opening themselves to this special blessing of the Holy Spirit, the confirmed person acquires the full responsibilities of being a member of the church, an ‘adult Christian’ in the Anglican tradition.
Until recently, in the Church of England, confirmation was received by teenagers, or even children, and after that they received Holy Communion for the first time, but because young people may now receive Communion before they are confirmed this takes some of the pressure away from being confirmed while still quite young. Confirmation can be left till later, when the candidate is an adult, or on the threshold of adult life, and would like to commit their life to Christ and seek his strengthening in a mature way.
However, there are some young teenagers who still have strong reasons for wanting to be confirmed, and if they request it, of course, they can be prepared for Confirmation. The important thing is that it should be their own choice. We also prepare adults of any age for Confirmation, sometimes in conjunction with preparing them for their Baptism if they have not already been baptised.
We usually advertise the opportunity for Confirmation preparation once a year, but welcome inquiries about it at any time. As with First Communions, preparation takes place through learning and discussion in age-appropriate ways in small groups.