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ADMISSION TO COMMUNION: brief soundings taken from a small number of AIF members who were asked in preparation for the meeting with Bishops on 6th February 1997:

What have been/are your particular needs for admission to communion as a couple?

How far have your needs been met?

What is the main point you would like to make to the Bishops about admission to communion?

1 What have been/are your particular needs for admission to communion as a couple?

To take communion together always.

Constant need to express in the eucharist the oneness we share in our marriage and family relationships: occasions such as wedding, baptism, first communion particularly difficult.

We need to share worship.

To communicate with one another at our local parish.

We have asked on special occasions - after a bereavement, on our 25th wedding anniversary.

To keep the vision alive and nurture the unity of a Christian marriage and family.

As a couple who are united in the sacramental bond of marriage we are in communion with each other in every conceivable way - apart from one. We have an urgent desire to complete our own communion by sharing together in the sacramental communion.

We feel a serious spiritual need to affirm our unity in Christ by receiving communion together; to be separated is hurtful for us as a couple and painful that we show an example of disunity to our children.

All through our married life (22 years) we have needed communion together to offer our commitment to our marriage and family in its fullest expression, and to receive the spiritual nourishment it gives us to continue that commitment. At times of stress in married and family life, and times of great joy, participation together has been especially necessary, and often poignant.

10 As a married couple we need to worship together as often as practicable, and we do not feel "together" in worship if only one of us is admitted to communion.

11 When we are together at mass.

12 Separation at communion contradicts the oneness in Christ we should always have in marriage: we dread the day we shall have to explain this to our children. We need to receive communion together at least on family occasions (birthdays, anniversaries) and major feasts, with the full knowledge and understanding of the Christian community in which we live.

13 We need to receive communion together to build up the unity of our marriage and family life - being unable to receive together put a great strain on our marriage and family life. Yet the closer we got as a family, the more painful separation became and a thick cloud hung over our perception of Christ's love for us. When after 14 years we were able to receive on odd occasions the cloud thinned but the uncertainty was stressful - we need to celebrate our love together, in union with Christ, not occasionally on the quiet, but in our ordinary living.

14 On 6th January 1975 it was unexpectedly offered by a friend and priest - we didn't know how much we needed it until knowing its reconciling power.

15 Our particular need is to receive together as a family whenever we attend Mass together.

16 We need to share as a practising couple.

17 Regular admission to communion as a couple.

18 To receive communion together regularly.

19 The joy of participating as a family at the table of the Lord is something we long for - it hurts that at a moment of family unity we are divided.

20 To worship together as a family and to take full part in the Mass without one parent being excluded at communion.

21 We would benefit from joint communion on every occasion as we always feel very separated at this point in the Mass. The children, from an early age, were aware of the division and found our attempts at an explanation bewildering. We certainly feel the need for shared communion at moments of "heightened awareness" such as anniversaries.

22 The other partner to be allowed to receive communion when attending mass.

23 Our son's first communion in 1995 when we asked and were refused was painful for us all. Anglican mother was admitted at Easter 1996 - another particularly painful time.

2   How far have your needs been met?

On the occasion of our children's First Communion in June 1994.

2 Not at all at parish or diocesan level.

3 Our needs are met by the Bishop/Parish Priest allowing communion together on special and other occasions of need - perhaps 10 times a year.

4 We appreciate being allowed to communi together at the local parish. It means keeping a low profile and not wearing a clerical collar. The results for our married life have been enormous.

5 Our needs have not been met. The p.p. writes: the C of E's decision to ordain women contradicts Scripture, the classical tradition of Anglicanism does not consider Marriage a sacrament; a sizeable number of our Catholic people are unable to receive - in irregular marriages or divorced - allowing non-Catholic spouses to receive would be a source of scandal to them. "Perhaps you could explain why you are not in communion with the Holy See?

On Advent Sunday 1995 our p.p. wrote in the newsletter that he was admitting the Anglican spouse because of the encyclical of 25 May 1995. The local press contacted the bishop who told the p.p. to say it was not allowed: "quotations from UUS and the Directory have been taken out of context". The p.p. explained in the newsletter that he had made his decision on the basis of information from AIF; diocesan authorities had told him it is incorrect and must not be followed. He apologised to the couple.

A lot has changed for the better. From blank refusal in our early days together we have experienced loving understanding of our needs and a willingness to go towards meeting them.

On rare occasions. Priests generally show no awareness of our pastoral needs as a couple/family.

For the past 15 years our priest has accepted the non-RC partner to communion, which we appreciate, but it is made clear this is not to be broadcast. We wish we didn't have to keep our heads down because of possible "scandal"; we could be more involved in the church if we felt more accepted.

10 For the last two years our p.p. has allowed (the husband) to receive when we come to communion together. He has asked us not to draw the attention of other parishioners to the fact.

11 Our needs have never been met.

12 Our priests and community are sympathetic and understanding and the Anglican is always offered a blessing which is very helpful, especially to the children (3 and 1). On our 5' wedding anniversary this year the Bishop gave permission for the Anglican to receive communion. Our p.p. explained the circumstance fully to the congregation who were all delighted and offered prayers and congratulations. It gave us a wonderful feeling of togetherness in Christ as a family and a longing to feel that every week - like anormal family would.

13 Our needs were totally disregarded for the first 14 years. Then, until more recently, the sufferance under which we were admitted to communion together made us feel less than welcome in the Catholic community. Now we are warmly welcomed in the eucharist and experience great joy in the richness of Christ's love. No longer do we feel spiritually starved and stunted but are experiencing rich spiritual growth which we enjoy sharing with our religious communities as we work for greater unity in Christ.

14 We had the enormous blessing of living near a parish where the priest admitted the Anglican to communion - impossible to describe the effect.- layers of prejudices disappearing, mind set changing. Now, in a new parish, permission not granted, it's very painful to listen to the words of the mass.

15 At present our p.p. has said he will admit the Anglican to communion on "special occasions". This has resulted in an absurd game where we assess various occasions: Easter, Christmas, family anniversaries, for their importance and ask as rarely as possible so we don't drive him to say "no".

16 We feel increasingly frustrated - meanwhile seeing "occasional" visitors at e.g. First Communions joining in fully - we're not against that but it seems wrong from our point of view as our p.p.s agree.

17 We have asked every Easter and have not been refused. We have been trying to identify with our Bishop other suitable occasions when permission could be granted. We agreed, in principle, that Christmas, Easter, Pentecost and our wedding anniversary were such occasions.

18 Not well in our local churches, but when we are on holiday and unknown. Locally we share communion at Christmas, Faster and other "major" occasions. Also in Teams of Our Lady we have a very understanding chaplain and he gives the Anglican communion at any house mass we have.

19 Our needs are only met in an imperfect way in the receiving of a blessing.

20 The Methodist has only received on one specific occasion, with the express knowledge and permission of the priest, in 25 years of marriage. The children cannot understand why a loving church should exclude their mother from the sacrament.

21 We were granted permission for joint communion on the occasions of the children's baptisms and first communions. A wonderful elderly priest spontaneously offered us both communion when we visited his rural church to give an altar talk on behalf of AIF!

22 Not at all. As a high profile member of the music team at the Catholic Church for many years, it is known that I am Anglican and it is not possible to receive "incognito". I go up for a blessing so that our daughter can see that we go up as a family. I was forbade communion even when my daughter was due to receive her First Holy Communion, despite the fact that I share the Catholic eucharistic faith.

23 The pain is increased since the Ecumenical Directory launch-, we now know it is within the bishop's power to act positively, but he chooses to interpret the Directory as "not relevant".

3 What is the main point you would like to make to the Bishops about admission to communion?

That through the sacrament of marriage we are expected to remain as one and yet we are denied the unifying nurture of communion together.

Our marriage makes us one flesh, joined by God. It seems to us theologically inconsistent to then deny us sharing in one body in the eucharist. The church's theology of marriage seems at best underdeveloped. We ask for a generous application of the norms, and support for p.p's as they offer eucharistic sharing - guidelines on preparation for their congregations would be useful.

It is necessary for real coming together for worship, not just on "special occasions" but at "times of need" - these vary for couples. Pastoral care means each couple's needs are established locally and met.

Reconciliation takes place at the eucharist. If we are one in the sacrament of marriage, then why are we not allowed to be one in the sacraments of reconciliation and eucharist?

When the Anglican believes in the Real Presence, and when through the sacrament of matrimony there is already some recognition of a sacramental unity, we find it hard to accept the current Catholic refusal to allow even occasional admission. Could the Catholic Bishops consider further the Directory?

In certain cases it should be possible for a committed Christian partner, who can show a Catholic understanding of the eucharist, to receive communion. It is a sign of unity in marriage, in Christ.

Please have courage to accept the Directory and apply it openly and equally across the country.

Shared communion, in situations where there is a real need and desire and where the couple share the same eucharistic belief, could provide the grace leading to unity as well as being a sign of unity achieved. Communion is above all the sacrament of peace, unity and reconciliation.

The variety of response from priests is distressing. It damages our faith, especially when it affects the children. We would like the rules to be administered more sensitively and consistently. We think it should be made possible for priests to consider couples' and families' needs - they often don't take responsibility for the pastoral care needed to do this - even if the answer is "no" because of their own consciences. We don't want to break rules. We would not receive communion secretly from a priest who we knew would not accept us if asked. But, to deny a couple united in baptism and marriage, united in eucharistic belief, united in the spiritual nurturing of their family, the possibility to receive communion together regularly and to make it necessary for parents to try to explain this to the children without impeding the children's spiritual growth, is like saying they may be married but are not allowed to pray together or kiss each other or patch up a child's hurt knee or tuck them in.

10 Division at the communion table undermines the unity of marriage between committed Christians.

11 At the end of our wedding in 1947 the priest joined his hands over ours and said: "And now you are one". Yet at mass we are separate - why?

12 It's not about occasions (e.g. always at weddings) but about people - their relationships with Christ, with each other, with the church. Receiving in another church is a commitment and a privilege and so each person should be prepared for that. It goes two ways - it is terribly hard to receive communion after seeing your partner receive a blessing. The need to have our oneness in Christ affirmed is acute.

13 Two baptised Christians joined in the sacrament of matrimony have an essential need to be regularly affirmed and confirmed in their unity by frequent admission as a couple to the eucharist, to be spiritually nourished and sustained - particularly in today's society that is so hostile in its values and style to Christian life, marriage and family life. Frequently and regularly (at least weekly) we need deeply to give thanks together for the unity and harmony God has built up in our 35 year-old marriage and for nourishing us so generously through the sacrament of our marriage; we need the strengthening and deepening of our relationship that comes from feeding together upon Christ in the eucharist.

14 The eucharist is a source of grace in marriage. Knowing what grace has been given to us, wondering where we would have been without eucharistic sharing (it carried us through the time when our children were growing up) we implore the Bishops to do all in their power to help other couples whose married love is founded in a shared faith, but which has been divided by history and politics.

15 When we are given permission to receive together there is a deep sense of joy and family unity which is a tremendous boost to our marriage and our faith. When we are refused, the converse is true.

16 We feel we should be welcome positively as a couple; we want to emphasise how it feels not to be, week by week, and how it looks to our children.

17 We have a genuine and serious spiritual need to receive holy communion together in the Catholic Church. Not being able to do so places an additional and unnecessary strain on our marriage. As we share a common eucharistic faith we do not understand why this is a problem. It is vitally important that shared communion is not restricted to occasions like weddings, funerals, confirmations etc.

18 It seems a shame that where we are known (i.e. our local churches) it is difficult to receive communion, whereas in a strange parish or abroad it is not a problem (because it would not cause "scandal" to those who know us).

19 If Christ was officiating at one of our eucharistic celebrations the look on his face when an interchurch family come up for communion and do not receive together would say it all.

20 As a couple we are united in marriage but divided at the communion rail. This has become so painfid that we seldom attend Mass together and gravitate towards the Methodist service which is more welcoming. Families need to worship together to witness to their Catholic faith as well as their other denomination. Permission is required on an on-going basis but must be given openly and must be acceptable to the congregation. This will only happen if endorsed publicly by the bishops.

21 That we need to look again at the reasons why the Catholic Church feels unable to offer communion to other Christians and examine the concept of "scandal" in this context. Recently our local Churches Together has begun to ask more about the "Catholic position" - most other denominations are very ignorant of the reasons - much misunderstanding exists. If at local level dialogue could be more "obvious", misunderstandings could be clarified.

22 We deserve special attention because we are unified by our Baptism and Marriage. We are the complete domestic church. We have the deepest Christian commitment to each other. We sometimes receive communion as one in our house. We support ecumenical projects and an ecumenical prayer group. We are united in helping with the music ministry. We daily pray together as a family, and we are a living unit of unity. It seems absurd to us that we share every other facet of daily living in the Christian faith, but we cannot share communion as a family. Prejudices and insults of clergy and parishioners can be borne in a good interchurch partnership, but when children arrive, it becomes difficult to say 'Daddy is not receiving communion in a Catholic church".

23 We need compassion and love please, not lectures showing a sense of insecurity.



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