My friend and colleague Will is fond of saying, “in the Episcopal Church, we have an altar call every week – its called the Holy Eucharist.” The Holy Eucharist (the Lord’s Supper, the Mass) is the hub of our worship as a Christian community around which rotates all aspects of our life and journey with Christ. The Eucharist is our celebration of God’s love for us and God’s desire to commune with us. And when we come forward and kneel (or stand) at the rail, we reach out for God and we receive more than we can imagine.
I love, and am profoundly honored by, giving communion to children. When our smallest sisters and brothers approach the altar, they can be hilarious, precious, honest, and holy. Some small ones may not know the difference between the wafer they receive on Sunday and the goldfish cracker they receive on Tuesday. Some are understandably dubious of the strange dude in weird clothes offering them a dry disc of food we call “bread.” Some do not wish to receive and ask for a blessing (which is fine). And some intrinsically know that something different, something special is happening and they receive with big grins and innocent awe. A few Sundays ago, a little sister did not want to receive, but then changed her mind halfway back to her pew, and ran back to receive. Regardless of where we are, God is accessible.
And when those small hands reach out, they are learning something powerful: they are welcome. And when they receive while being a little silly, or feeling sad, or driving mom or dad crazy, they are still welcome. And that is a powerful lesson, for when they are older and struggling, or questioning, or searching, or celebrating, that memory of the hospitable Church will be a beacon of hope and lead them back home.
I pray that our Chapel is always filled with wiggling, joyful children. For they are also listening and learning, worshiping and praying. And those prayers, and wiggles, are precious in His sight.