Each year during Lent, Union Lutheran Church offers a three-week First Communion
program for children who are at the end of their first grade year or older.
Children are invited to join the pastors and lay volunteers as they learn about
and participate in interactive sessions to help them better understand this
means of God’s grace.
Two years ago we took into membership a family with an 11-year-old autistic
child, Chris. He could not read or communicate with words – instead, he
uses a special “picture book” in which he points to certain pictures
to express his feelings and needs. As we were putting together the list of invitees
for our First Communion class, we realized that Chris had never received instruction
for communion. Our challenge was to offer this opportunity to the family and,
if they accepted, find a way to teach Chris in his own “language.”
Chris’s mother was overwhelmed that we would even consider trying this
with her son. But, with the help of his personal aide in the school district
and one of our members who works with special needs children, Chris’s “picture
book” about communion was developed.
Over the three weeks, children hear about the history of communion – from
the Exodus to Jesus’ last meal with his disciples – and how we celebrate
communion today. They investigate the meaning of communion as a conveyor of God’s
grace and forgiveness and as a gift to each one of us. And, finally, they learn
about how communion is a “family” meal.
As our other children met in their classes, Chris met one-on-one with his teacher
who worked with him, through his picture book, to help him understand the basic
concepts of communion – God’s gift to us given because of God’s
grace for us for the forgiveness of sins shared in the context of our family
of faith. Chris joined the entire class for a family potluck meal and “going
through the motions” of what it might be like that first time they participate
in the Lord’s Supper.
When Maundy Thursday arrived, the night our children receive communion for the
first time, so did Chris and the rest of our class. Chris came to the chancel
rail with his family and took communion – just like everyone else. It was
an awesome moment, one in which we took to heart the words “This is my
body. This is my blood. They are given and shed for ALL PEOPLE for the forgiveness
(If you are interested in hearing more or seeing the materials developed for
these classes please contact Pastor Jami Possinger or Pastor Dennis Moore at
Union Lutheran Church, Schnecksville, at 610-767-6884.)