Jesus said, in John 15:1, “I am the true vine and my Father is the vine grower.” These are the words with which our St. Philip’s children, ages 8–11, begin the adventure of preparing for Solemn Communion.
What is Solemn Communion? It is a beautiful stepping stone in spiritual growth that encourages someone to set aside time to read, ponder and discuss Bible passages that lead us to ask, “Who are you, Jesus? What gifts did I receive at my baptism? What happens in Eucharist? What is my place in God’s Plan for the world?”
We all know that the term, First Communion, means the first time in which a person receives the sanctified body and blood of Christ. In many traditions, it is given to them only after they have taken classes on what the sacrament means, but in the Episcopal tradition, people are counted as members from the moment that they are baptized and can receive Communion immediately, even if as infants. There is no class or celebration surrounding a person’s first Communion and so the next formal instruction is often before Confirmation, which can be at age 15 or so.
I was attending a training course for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in the 1990s, along with several Episcopal friends, where we received a presentation on First Communion preparation that was so meaningful that we looked at each other and said, “We want this for our children but what can we call it?” Together we decided on Solemn Communion and took the program back to our churches.
This past month, beginning at the “Comfy Space” service on Sunday, February 9, I have been working with Henry Anderson, Presley French, Drew Mette, and Jonathon Cowles. What a great group! Observations on scripture, questions and opinions all poured out each week together for four weeks. Then we began a retreat at the church on Friday afternoon and again all day on Saturday. We listened to the accounts of Jesus’ Last Supper; made our own Anglican prayer beads; looked at presentations on baptism, Eucharist, and Reconciliation; baked Communion bread for the Comfy Space service; decorated model Paschal candles; and spent time with the Rev. Canon John Kitagawa as part of their first confession. The next day, Sunday, March 9, the “Comfy Space” service for Solemn Communion began, with each boy putting on a white robe and participating in the service. It was awesome!
I have now done this very beautiful spiritual walk with many children over many years now, and yet it is always new and different, and always turns out to be a very special gift for me. Thank you, Henry, Presley, Drew, and Jonathon!
(photos by Kathy Kitagawa)