03 December 2010

Forbid them not?

A brief history is required before the question is posed for discussion.

About five years ago I began going to one of the Bethesda homes in our area and having a weekly service with the residents. The residents of this home are for the most part fairly low functioning with the exception of two residents who speak a bit, one more than the other. Those two had at some point in time and in some manner been catechized and are communicants. One of them had resided at Watertown for a long time and thus received very regular catachesis.

These visits to the home were not usually marked by great attention on the behalf of the residents and those who worked there were oft times in pursuit of one resident or another.

Three years ago they all began to come to the church on Thursday afternoons for the service. They would walk or be wheeled in and sit in the front pews of the sanctuary. I would vest, light the candles and use an abbreviated liturgy for the service. (Invocation, confession and absolution, readings, Apostles creed, homily, Lord's prayer, words of institution, holy communion, prayer of thanksgiving, benediction and an opening and closing hymn-the same each week)

They paid attention, they were for the most part quiet. There were reactions to the Word, to the singing, to their presence at the Lord's table. They were different. Most notably, the one resident whom I Baptized was more expressive during his time at the rail. They continue to come every Thursday and on most Sundays to the Divine service as well. Three of the women who work with these residents have been catechized and have joined the Church as well.

So now to my question. Two of them are communicants and four are not. Bethesda has some catechetical materials but they are not practical for those who do not communicate. I believe that by the demonstrated change from being at the home to being in the house of the Lord, from being inattentive to paying attention, this is reflective of a change wrought by God in them and they have been prepared over these years to receive the Lord's Supper.

I am interested in your ideas and opinions. I will say that there is not the time and/or proper manner to teach them more or to examine them. I also have one little girl who is very handicapped and unable to speak whose parents bring her faithfully to church. Her siblings all commune except for the 6 year old who will soon. I believe I should be communing this 12 year old girl with handicaps as well. What say you brothers?


Father Hollywood said...

I say "forbid them not." Unless they are demonstrating impenitence, why excommunicate them just because they're handicapped? Should we also deny them Christian funerals?

Blessings on your ministry to these beloved saints!

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Unless you have very good reason to think that they would be profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord and thus doing themselves spiritual harm, forbid them not.

Pr. H. R. said...

I have two parishioners with Down's Syndrome. Both are communed.

Faith is the product of the Holy Spirit. He uses what is in the person - every part of our being expresses our God-given faith. If we have an intellect, it is part of our faith. If we don't, it isn't. And everything inbetween. . .


Pastor Foy said...

Thank you for your words and positive encouragement. I have but one other question and that is the manner by which you informed the congregation of this and seeing as how these children of God cannot be examined in the usual way, how did you close that loop.

Of course it is all by faith, absolutely it is all by the working of the Holy Spirit and that is more than enough. However, there are always those who demand the proofs of men, i.e. confirmation, affirmation of faith etc.

My normal means would be to inform the elders, have their buy in and then begin to commune these children of God with no further fanfare.

Ideas and suggestions please.

Norman Teigen said...

Very encouraging words from your blog. I haven't read you for a while. My bad, my loss.

Continue on with your good work.

Bikermom said...

With all the debate over what age is appropriate to commune children, I have always wondered why this issue has not been addressed with y'all. Perhaps it was and I missed it but I am very grateful for this post and the response. I personally think it should be addressed a little more aggressively in the synod.

"Faith is the product of the Holy Spirit. He uses what is in the person - every part of our being expresses our God-given faith. If we have an intellect, it is part of our faith. If we don't, it isn't. And everything in between."

Yep. Thanks again for this very pertinent topic.