On Children, Communion, and an “Open Table”
Rev. Aaron Todd
A few months ago, my family was on vacation in Kansas City, MO and on Sunday morning we visited a congregation that we sometimes worship with when we are not with our home churches. This congregation is a small group of Disciples who do a wonderful job in making all who enter into the worship space feel welcomed and like a critical element of the community. When it came time for communion, my wife and I were a tad uncertain about how our then- 2 year old would handle going up front to partake in the elements. Expecting a touch of chaos, we got in the back of the line so that no one would be waiting on us. When it came time for our son to tear of the bread and dip it into the cup he did so joyfully and eagerly. After eating the Bread he turned to my wife and I and proclaimed loudly, “I want more!” This was a holy moment for our family, and I was thankful to this congregation for welcoming our son into that time of sacredness. Thankfully, there are many of our congregations in the DoC that share in a similar practice of inclusivity, however, I know that this is not universal, and I know that there is still some question about when (and how) our children can share in the Table.
This is a sensitive issue for some within our Denominational family, and I really have never fully understood why. I’ve never really understood the tension between proclaiming an “open table” and then setting up a stipulation that essentially says, “The Table will be open to you, once you meet a certain set of criteria.” I believe this also sends a conflicting and possibly damaging message to our young people as they continue to try to find their place within the wholeness of Congregational life.
The most common justification I have heard from folks who are entrenched into the camp that says children must wait until a certain age or until they are baptized, is that until they reach that milestone, don’t “get it.” Now I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve been a member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) my entire life, and I’ve been in ministry for ten years, and I still don’t “get” what happens at the Lord’s Table. I don’t fully understand what it means to share in the fullness of community and grace. I don’t fully grasp what it means to be loved even to the point of death. All I know is that I need community, grace, and love and I find all of those things at the Communion table. And that every time I experience a time of communion, I want more.
Just as I need community, grace, and love I know that our children need to feel these same things and I know that as we continue to attempt to integrate our children into the fullness of worship, they will hear their ministers talking about these things and how Christ offers them to all people. How confusing it must be for them to be told that Christ welcomes all, but then have the communion plate passed over them or to be told to stay in their seats as their parents and older siblings make the journey to the front of the sanctuary.
As a father, I will never deny my boys the opportunity to share in the meal of Love, and I pray for the day when all our congregations do likewise for all of our children.
Rev. Aaron Todd is a lifelong member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and is a 2009 graduate of Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University. He has served in youth ministry for congregations in Kansas, Missouri and Texas and is currently serving as the Minister of Education at First Christian Church, Midwest City, OK
Aaron is married to Debra Todd, who is also a Disciples minister. Together they have a 3 year old son named Zachary and a precious new baby boy name Joshua. In addition to their human children they also share the journey with their big red dog, Amos (named after the prophet).