In many congregations, children are welcome to come to the communion table with their parents to receive a blessing. But that’s it. No bread. No wine or grape juice. They receive just a word and a blessing.
One Sunday morning, I watched as a mother pulled her child from the communion railing as he cried out, “but I wanted some grape juice too.”
It made me think about that. The children come to the table, but they do not receive anything. Everyone else gets something but not the children.
I came up with the idea of having a bowl of grapes on my tray. While we commune children down to the age of 3 after preparation, those who do not yet receive communion come forward and kneel at the railing with their parents. As the pastor or communion assistant comes to the child, they first receive a grape and then the mark of the cross on their forehead with the words of blessing.
It has totally changed the mood of our worship. The little children eagerly “run” down the aisle and kneel in anticipation of that simple grape. I hear them whisper to their parents, “I got a grape!!”
Most recently, a parent told me that they had to take their child out of worship because he was “acting out,” and they did not get back to worship in time for him to get the grape. He was so upset about that. He told his parents that he would be good from now on because he “was not going to miss getting his grape again.”
The grape is something tangible. It replaces the grape “juice.” But it is much more than that. It is a sign of welcome. It is a gesture of inclusivity. It is the thought of being recognized and accepted. And most of all, it is a symbol of pure grace!
This practice has changed our worship and made our children feel that they are really a part of the worshiping community. It is just a simple grape. Or is it?