The Sacraments are the “outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ to the Church”. These signs strengthen us and mark our identity as children of God, as those who belong to the family of Jesus Christ. Along with other Protestant churches, the Anglican Church recognizes two sacraments: Baptism and the Eucharist / Communion / Lord’s Supper. The preferred name might indicate something of the theology with which the sacrament is regarded, but they all refer to important aspects and have Biblical roots.
In Protestant churches it was customary for many years that children that were baptised as babies had their first communion at their Confirmation. However, that has changed over the last fifty years. Even though children were admitted to communion in the New Zealand Anglican Church previously, the General Synod in 1990 provided the following guidelines.
The sacramental means of entry and incorporation into the Body of Christ occurs through Baptism. The Eucharist is the sacramental means by which members of the Body are sustained and nurtured in that community and is the central act of worship in the Christian Church. Baptism confers full membership of the Church, and therefore provides the ground for
admission to the holy communion. All may therefore receive communion from the time of their Baptism irrespective of age.
Variations in pastoral practice in relation to admission to the communion may be found, but those once admitted (whether at Baptism, or when judged pastorally appropriate by priest and family, or at a special service after more formal instruction, or after receiving Laying on of Hands for Confirmation), are welcome to receive communion in any parish in this Church.
A process of education is essential in developing an awareness and understanding of the meaning of the Eucharist. Teaching on the Eucharist should be made widely available.
Children should therefore receive communion and develop an understanding of it, once they are already familiar with communion through their own experience. Confirmation is an important step in our faith and allows for a time of
learning and discovery together with commitment to Jesus and the Church.