First Communion Catechesis (FCC), Fall 2018
Preparation towards First Communion at Immanuel Lutheran Church
Dear ILC Parents:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ! The Sacred Scriptures teach that Holy Communion is a precious treasure in which our Lord forgives our sins, unites us to Himself, and strengthens us in faith toward Him and in fervent love toward one another. It is Christ’s true Body and Blood given to us Christians to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of sins, life, and everlasting salvation. As stewards of the mysteries of God (1 Cor. 4:1), pastors are given the responsibility and duty to administer this blessed Sacrament of the Altar to the faithful. This includes examining those who are admitted to the altar and seeing that they are worthily prepared.
As baptized children of God and members of the Holy Christian Church, your children ought to be encouraged from an early age to value the Lord’s Supper highly. Perhaps they have expressed a desire to receive the Sacrament already at a young age. This is commendable, and the Scriptures provide no requisite age at which a child is fit to commune. Quite the opposite, our Lord Jesus blessed the little children where others would have forbidden them and lauded their faith saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” (Mark 10:13–16). Our Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has supported communing children prior to confirmation [aka “early communion”] for many decades, including at the most recent 2016 Convention. We are firmly committed to being faithful to the Scriptures and also obedient, for the sake of love, to our Synod’s guidelines. Thus, we your pastors are eager to see the children of Immanuel come to the altar to receive the Sacrament, granting that they have been rightly instructed and prepared for such reception.
Christian instruction ought to take place primarily in the home. “As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household” is how Luther introduces the various parts of the Catechism. Thus, your children’s preparation toward receiving Holy Communion will be accomplished primarily in the home as you, their parents, teach them the Word of God, pray with them, and instill in them a desire for the Sacrament. Then, when they have been adequately prepared at home, you are encouraged to bring them to meet with one of us, your pastors, for additional instruction and examination.
FCC this Fall
We are providing an opportunity for First Communion Catechesis (FCC) again this fall.
The class, consisting of 10 sessions, will take place Wednesdays, Sept. 12 through Nov. 14, 2018, from 6:00 to 6:50pm.
Parents are invited to attend with their children, so that they may be strengthened in their teaching of the faith at home, and children and parents alike are invited and encouraged to stay for the weekly Wednesday Evening Service (7pm), if able.
In the course of these sessions, your pastors will give instruction on the six chief parts of Luther’s Small Catechism with special focus on the Sacrament of the Altar, examine the children and their Christian confession, and absolve their sins. Then, if your children are deemed fit and well-prepared to receive Holy Communion, we will formally receive them to the Lord’s Table through the rite of “First Communion prior to Confirmation” in the Divine Service on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018 (Twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity). It may also be the case that your child will require further maturing in the faith before being deemed well-prepared to receive the Lord’s Supper, in which case you will be encouraged to continue instructing your children at home and to bring them to us for examination at a later date, or to enroll them in FCC again next year. One can never have too much Christian catechesis!
The general guidelines that we your pastors will use to determine the readiness of Immanuel children to receive the Lord’s Supper, along with their attendance at FCC, are as follows:
- They are baptized children of member families in regular attendance at the Sunday Divine Service.
- They have learned by heart the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Words of Institution, and have an understanding of the same.
- They are able to confess that they are sinners in need of forgiveness, that Jesus died in their place to forgive their sins, and that in the Lord’s Supper the Body and Blood of Jesus is given to them for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.
- In other words, they are able to confess what the Sacrament is and what benefits it gives. For, as it is confessed in the Large Catechism, “[I]t is not our intention to admit to [the Sacrament] and to administer it to those who know not what they seek, or why they come (LC V 2).”
Resources for the Home
This preparation will be the focus of FCC, but we encourage you to be teaching and preparing your children before, during, and after you enroll them in the class. The best aid for this is Luther’s Small Catechism, which, apart from being printed separately, can also be found in the hymnal, the Lutheran Service Book (LSB), on pages 321–330. Though Luther’s explanations will not be required memory work for admission to the Lord’s Supper, they are certainly very helpful tools toward a right preparation, as are the “Christian Questions with Their Answers,” found on pages 40–44 of Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation (St. Louis: CPH, 2008) or pages 329–330 of LSB.
For easy reference, the Ten Commandments, Creed, and Lord’s Prayer may be found together on page 264 of LSB, and the Words of Institution on page 162.
We encourage you, therefore, to begin (or continue!) your child’s preparation at home and to talk with us along the way regarding his or her desire for Holy Communion. We are happy to answer any questions and give assistance, as we are eager to give the life-giving Body and Blood of Jesus to your children at Immanuel’s altar. To enroll your child in this fall’s FCC, please contact Danielle Davis at the church office (email: Danielle.Davis@immanuelalexandria.org or call: 703-549-0155).
May God bless and keep you and your families,
Pastor Eckardt and Pastor Esget