You are here Resources Diocesan Handbook Supplements Supplement 6: The administration of Holy Communion

Diocesan Handbook

Supplement 6: The administration of Holy Communion

1  Regulations made by the Church Assembly (November 1969)

see Canon B12 3

1.1 An application to the Bishop to authorize under §2 (1) of the Prayer Book (Further Provisions) Measure 1968 a baptized and confirmed person to distribute the Holy Sacrament in any parish shall be made in writing by the incumbent or priest‑in‑charge of the parish and supported by the churchwardens, and shall specify the name and give relevant particulars of the person to whom the application relates.

1.2 Where the cure is vacant and no priest‑in‑charge is appointed, an application under the preceding paragraph may be made by the rural dean and supported by the churchwardens.

2 It shall be in the discretion of the Bishop to grant or refuse the application and to specify the circumstances or conditions in or on which the authority is to be available.

3 In these Regulations 'the Bishop' means the Bishop of the Diocese or a person appointed by him for the purpose, being a suffragan or assistant bishop or archdeacon of the Diocese.

NB The Measure of 1968 referred to in paragraph 1 above was repealed by the Church of England (Worship and Doctrine) Measure 1974. The power to make Regulations is contained in Canon B12.

2  Admission of baptized persons to Holy Communion before confirmation

Guidelines agreed by House of Bishops (March 1997)

see Canon B15A 1(a); and B4 above

(a) Since 'communion before confirmation' is a departure from our inherited norm, it requires special permission. After consultation, every diocesan bishop will have the discretion to make a general policy whether or not to entertain new applications for 'communion before confirmation' to take place in his Diocese if he decides to do so, individual parishes must seek his agreement before introducing it. The bishop should satisfy himself that both the incumbent and the Parochial Church Council support any application, and that where appropriate ecumenical partners have been consulted. If the parties cannot agree, the bishop's direction shall be followed.

(b) The incumbent must ensure that the policy adopted for his/her parish is clearly and widely understood. The policy should be considered within the general context both of the ministry that is carried out in the parish through initiation, and also of the continuing nurture of people in the Christian faith. The Bishop should be satisfied that the programme of continuing Christian nurture is in place leading to confirmation in due course.

(c) Before admitting a person to communion, the priest must seek evidence of baptism. Baptism always precedes admission to Holy Communion.

(d) There is a question regarding the age at which children may be admitted to Holy Communion. In general the time of the first receiving should be determined not so much by the child's chronological age as by his or her appreciation of the significance of the sacrament. Subject to the Bishop's direction, it is appropriate for the decision to be made by the parish priest after consultation with the parents or those who are responsible for the child's formation, with the parents' goodwill. An appropriate and serious pattern of preparation should be followed. The priest and parents share in continuing to educate the child in the significance of Holy Communion so that (s)he gains in understanding with increasing maturity.

(e) The Church needs to encourage awareness of many different levels of understanding, and support the inclusion of those with learning difficulties in the Christian communion.  Particular care needs to be taken with the preparation of any who have learning difficulties, including children. The incumbent should consult with those concerned in their care, education and support regarding questions of their discernment of the sacrament, the admission to Holy Communion, and their preparation for confirmation.

(f) Before a person in first brought to Holy Communion the significance of the occasion should be explained to him/her and to his/her parents, and marked in some suitable way before the whole congregation. Wherever possible, the person's family should be involved in the service.

(g) A register should be kept of every person admitted to Holy Communion before confirmation, and each should be given a certificate (or, better, the baptismal certificate should be endorsed).

(h) Whether or not a parish practises 'communion before confirmation', the incumbent should take care regarding the quality of teaching material, especially that used with children and young people. The material should be reviewed regularly and the advice of diocesan officers and other professional advisers taken into account.

(i) The priest must decide exactly how much of the liturgy communicant children will attend.   Even if there is a separate 'Ministry of the Word' for children, anyone who is to receive Holy Communion should be present in the main assembly at least for the eucharistic prayer.

(j) No baptized person, child or adult, who has once been admitted to Holy Communion and remains in good standing with the Church, should be anywhere deprived of it. When, for example, a family moves to another area, the incumbent of the parish they are leaving should contact their new incumbent to ensure that there is no confusion regarding the communicant status of children. It is the responsibility of the new incumbent to discuss with the children and parents concerned when the children should be presented for confirmation. Such children should normally be presented at least by the age of 18.

(k) Since baptism is at the heart of Christian initiation, it is important for the Bishop regularly to be the minister of holy baptism, and particularly at services where candidates will be both baptized and confirmed. It is generally inappropriate for candidates who are preparing for initiation into the Christian life in baptism and confirmation to receive baptism at a service other than the one in which they are to be confirmed.

(l) In using rites of public re-affirmation of faith other than baptism and confirmation, care should be taken to avoid the impression that they are identical with confirmation. In the case of people who have not been confirmed, it will be more appropriate for the incumbent to propose that they be confirmed.

Share this page: