[The following letter was mailed to members of our congregation on June 4. -ed]
June 4, 2015
Dear Members and Friends of Holy Cross,
This coming Sunday is an exciting day in the life of our congregation. This past year we spent about six months studying the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, and the centrality of our Lord’s Body and Blood for the life of the Christ. A part of that study (conducted on Sunday mornings in Bible class) was also looking at both when and how one prepares to receive Holy Communion.
Our elders and I have been studying this off and on for some time as well. The end of our study was the following pastoral practice which we adopted in the Spring of 2014:
Pastoral Practice Regarding First Communion and Confirmation of Children at Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Adopted by the Board of Elders
Pastoral practice regarding First Communion:
That Holy Cross Lutheran Church admit children to Holy Communion when the pastor, the child, the parents and at least one elder all concur that the child is prepared to receive Christ’s Body and Blood in Holy Communion. “Preparation” shall include but not be limited to a clear confession of faith in the Gospel by means of reciting by heart the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer, by being examined and absolved by the pastor (Individual Confession and Absolution), and by verbally expressing their desire to receive Christ’s Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins.
Pastoral practice regarding Confirmation:
That Holy Cross Lutheran Church confirm those children in the Christian Faith who can recite by heart the Small Catechism of Dr. Martin Luther with Explanation, who have been examined and absolved, and who are able to confess the faith and answer the questions placed upon confirmands in the Rite of Confirmation found in the Lutheran Service Book.
The reason for this practice is simple: It is of great benefit for all Christians to receive Christ’s Body and Blood, and that we should be about giving our children Jesus as much as possible, and as soon as possible.
The challenges and opportunities for this proposed policy are several:
- By separating confirmation and first communion, we run the risk of denigrating the importance of the rite of confirmation. On the other hand, this also raises the importance of the regular reception of the Lord’s Supper.
- This practice, while gaining acceptance in the LCMS as a whole, is not universally accepted, and does require explanation.
- Because this is based on the confession of faith of the individual and not an arbitrary age, it makes the practice appear random, when in fact this is more consistent with our understanding of worthiness of receiving the Sacrament.
- While there is no explicit age requirement for either first communion or confirmation, both imply knowledge and understanding at different levels, as well as a verbal confession of the faith.
- Exceptions are, by definition, extraordinary. They will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
This coming Sunday, June 7, we will be offering the Lord’s Supper to five young people who have been preparing for this with their families for some time. They have all been examined by me in the presence of our deaconess, their parents, and at least one elder. We have all concurred that each child has confessed the faith, recognizes what they are desiring and why they desire it, and that they are “truly worth and well prepared” to receive Christ’s Body and Blood. This is done by what is called the “Rite of First Communion Prior to Confirmation”. I will make it available on our web site.
I pray you will join me and all the church in rejoicing with these young people and their families as they continue to grow in Christ and in love for their neighbor.
If you have any questions or concerns about this practice, please feel free to speak to me or to one of the elders. I remain
Yours in Christ,
Todd A. Peperkorn, STM