"I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for."
This was the theme of our first assembly of the academic year, in which the children shared their hopes for this year. We then made these into a display to act as a visual reminder for us all.
The flower petals were all the children's work, too. Here are some of their thoughts for this year:
Today we took inspiration from the Euros and talked about growth mindsets and what that means. We all know that footballers or athletes, for example, actually train and practise their skills constantly to reach their peak, but this idea of improvement and hard work applies to all areas: reading, writing, art…If you have a growth mindset, you feel that, with hard work, you will be able to improve your skills. A fixed mindset, on the other hand, is when you feel that people are just good at certain things and that nothing can be done about it. This is the time of year when we review what we have learnt, so this is an important topic to have broached. As teachers, we naturally are very much of the growth mindset!
"The Invisible String"
This assembly was based on the book of the same name and explored the ties which bind us together. Firstly, of course, we are bound by affection to those around us, and these invisible ties extend across time and space. We are not less attached to our families because they are far from us, or indeed have already gone before us marked with the sign of faith. But next there are the ties which bind our societies and allow our world to flourish - the common acceptance and understanding which underpin our everyday lives and without which we descend into chaos and the rule of force rather than the law.
The Seven 'I am' sayings from St John's Gospel
I am the Resurrection and the Life.
This is grounded in the story of Lazarus; he is dead and Martha reproaches Jesus for his absence. Jesus probes her understanding of eternal life, which is still very much based on life in the future, when all will be raised from the dead. Jesus’ response and actions bring Martha (and us) to a deeper understanding of where eternal life is to be found: in knowledge of Him, here and now: 'I am the Resurrection and the Life.'
The Seven ‘I am’ sayings from St John’s gospel.
Today we focussed on; “I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life”. We discussed how frightening and disorienting it can be to not know where you are going or how to get to your destination. But Jesus reaches out to us and says that He is the way to the Father and the promise of eternal life. What is his Way? The way of love of each other which, as we agreed, is not an easy way but one which demands action and commitment.
The Seven 'I am' sayings from St John's Gospel
I am the bread of life
St John writes to answer two questions: who is Jesus? What should we do with that knowledge?
We linked this to God feeding the Jewish people during their journey through the desert in the Old Testament, and to Jesus having fed the 5,000 on a few fishes and loaves in the New Testament. But although we may no longer be hungry physically, there is a deeper longing for something else: the bread of life to which Jesus refers.
'You did not choose me, I chose you. Go, and bear much fruit.'
This quotation from John 12 raises many emotions. How wonderful to be chosen by God, to be thought worthy of that! Going further, how does that make us want to behave to all around us? What will the effect be on our lives and how will we bear much fruit?
We pursued this subject in our assembly discussing the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control. We all took one of these to meditate on and think how it could show itself in our lives. I think we all secretly know which quality is most lacking in ourselves.
We started this week celebrating the great feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came to the disciples and transformed them. We prayed together:
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And You shall renew the face of the earth.
We are now getting close to the end of term, so we reviewed the goals we set ourselves earlier this term. We discussed that "Learning for Life" means both to learn throughout our lives and to learn so as to live life to the full and be the person God intends us to be. Who helps us to learn and how? We discussed that not only our teachers but our classmates and all those around us are instrumental in helping us learn. Learning in isolation is really hard, as we all discovered during Lockdown. We prayed for a spirit of perseverance and openness to learn new things.
The Ascension of the Lord
This marks the end of Jesus' earthly ministry. He has prepared his disciples to carry out the work of God without him. In all faith, unsure what to expect, they return to Jerusalem to await the coming of the Helper, the Holy Spirit. We reflected on what our mission is throughout our lives; how do we become the people God intends us to be, what will this look like?
Our Mission Statement is the background to assemblies this term. We are taking a line at a time and exploring what this means for us and how we will see the effects in our lives.
Learning for Life - that we learn both all through our lives and also so as to be able to live well.
Loving God, ourselves and others - that without an affection for ourselves, not in a proud way, we cannot show love towards others, and that all this springs from love of God.
Valuing all of his creation - that we value creation, of which we are part, because God made it and he made it to be beautiful and cherished.
Enabling us to do our best - that it is important to be the best we can be; God made us in his image, so we must be able to show all his glory through our lives.
Some deep themes here, which we revisit often.
St George is the patron saint of England, but also of many other countries: Georgia, of course, but also Portugal, Aragon, Catalonia, Lithuania, Palestine, Germany and Greece; and of Moscow, Istanbul, Genoa amongst many others.
He is also the patron of many workers: saddlers, soldiers, archers, cavalry and chivalry, farmers and field workers, the Scouts and also peace-makers.
How fitting that he should have such a multi-cultural background and be England's patron. Over the centuries there have been so many arrivals in these islands, from the Ancient Britons, Romans, Saxons, Vikings and then on to Huguenots, Italians, Poles, Windrush generation, and so it continues. Many countries have the motto "Out of many, one people" which could very well apply to us. We have become one people and are all the richer for those who have come to make their lives on these shores.
We ask for St George's help as we carry out our mission of making peace in our communities, our school and our family.
As we start Holy Week, we reflected on the rapturous welcome given to Jesus as he entered Jerusalem. This acclaim turned within a few days to the mob demanding his blood, that the prisoner released at Passover should be "Not Jesus, but Barabbas!" We reflected on the speed with which people changed their opinions of Jesus and asked that we should never allow ourselves to become part of a mob, that we should have the courage and strength of our convictions to always follow the truth.
We pray for those in authority, for our leaders: that they may govern wisely and have the interests of the whole community at heart when they make decisions. We pray that they will work for harmony and peace with the strength to handle disagreements in a way that Jesus would and to help see the other person’s point of view.
We pray for our families and friends. Help us to be grateful for all the amazing people around us: our family, friends, teachers and others in the community.
We pray for the ability to see the best in each other. To treat others as individuals and praise their different qualities. Please help us to enjoy how unique we are and stand up for who we are and what we believe in.
We started our first assembly of March by continuing to trace the theme of our relationships with others: that we need to live justly. We took St Luke's gospel (Lk 6:38) where he talks of generous giving and explored the idea that we can give intangible gifts, things which cannot be touched: friendship, caring and so on.
This Friday we finished the week by reflecting on one of Jesus' parables - about the wicked tenants of the vineyard and the stone rejected by the builders. The children were invited to work out the meanings of these parables and then to apply them to their own lives. How do we all bear fruit and show that we are followers of Jesus?
Today's assembly continued to explore our relationships with others.
How can we be close to God if we have quarrels with those around us? We need to make sure that we live justly and in peace with others. Our faith tells us that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, so whatever affects one of us should matter to all of us. In that spirit, we are acting with brotherly solidarity as we give alms to those who lack the necessities of life, such as clean water.
Our week started on Tuesday, for a change! The theme was our Walk for Water fund-raising which fulfills one of our Lenten duties - as alms-giving. It also continues the thread we are tracing through the Bible of helping others: "whatever you do for the least of my brothers..."
We shared the story of Abdella, who walks ten hours a day to fetch water for his family across harsh terrain and thought of how much we take clear, pure water for granted with just the turn of a tap.
The children (and their families) have really taken this initiative to heart and we are so impressed and grateful to all who are participating.
We continue to trace the theme of listening to Jesus as his ministry gets under way in St Mark's gospel. Jesus performs miracles and attracts crowds, all desperate to be healed. They have great physical needs, but cannot see beyond that. They do not see Jesus for who he truly is and have not yet learned to "listen to him". Jesus escapes to a lonely place, to gather strength for all he has to do. We recognise in that the same preparation that we carry out during Lent, when we try to focus on prayer, helping those in need and doing something more, which may be in the form of giving up one of our pleasures or, indeed, taking on something we would rather not.
We ask for God's help as we journey towards Easter.
Our Friday assembly took memory as its theme. The children have been discussing how we preserve memories - with keepsakes, photos, phrases and all the advantages of technology. We considered that, when we remember, we are putting together the image of someone who was dear to us and making them live again in our mind's eye. Of course we also thought of Captain Sir Tom Moore, as an example of someone who has lived a good life and left a lasting reputation. We finished by talking of how special it is to be able to remember Jesus' words on the last night of his life on earth. We thanked God for all the special people in our lives and the gift of memory.
Our reading came from Proverbs: that we feel blessed when we remember someone who has lived a good life.
"The people who heard him were amazed at the way he taught, for he wasn't like the teachers of the Law; instead, he taught with authority." Mark1:22
We explored who gave Jesus that authority? How did Jesus show his authority, what did he do and say that was unlike the teachers of the Law?
The children had some thoughtful reactions:
"I have learned that Jesus is magnificent and Holy. He doesn't need a scroll to know and share the glory of God."
"We must make sure that we don't just blindly follow people because they say they have authority over us."
This takes us into the deep waters of conscience - how do we know what is right and wrong? Could we justify any action as long as we followed our conscience? The children always have very thought-provoking reflections.
We ended our week with the theme of forgiveness and tolerance, inspired by Year 6's work this week. As we celebrate each other's individuality and gifts, we recognise that we are created deliberately in this way so as to fulfill our mission of building up God's kingdom.
Here are examples of their work:
Please help us to see the best in each other. To treat others as individuals and praise their different qualities. Please help us to be unique and stand up for who we are and what we believe in.
Thank you for loving me. Please give me the strength to handle disagreements in a way that Jesus would and to help me see the other person's point of view.
I have learned that I should see the best in everyone, treat others as individuals, praise everyone's different qualities and be special and unique.
We traced the theme of God’s call and our response from the Baptism of Jesus to the calling of the disciples, not forgetting how Samuel was called in the Old Testament. We discussed how we can become distracted by everyday concerns and not hear what God is saying to us. We ended by a prayer to be given the strength to live as Jesus’ disciples thinking about how others would know that we are His disciples.
The Baptism of Jesus
In the Church's calendar, this follows closely on the feast of the Epiphany when the baby Jesus was revealed to all the world. At his baptism in the Jordan, Jesus is again revealed, this time to those around him, as the Son of God. There is the revelation of the Trinity gathered together: God the Father speaks about the Son, the Spirit appears "like a dove". It is a powerful demonstration of the start of Jesus' work.
What does the Father say? "This is my Son, the beloved. Listen to him."
We are all the children of God, and all beloved.
One of the children's responses:
"I think that John was right to want to be baptised by Jesus, because Jesus is the son of God. Jesus did not need to get baptised but he wanted to show an example to his people that they should get baptised to be in God's family."
Jesus is revealed to the nations - that is all of us. He is a king, yet born in a stable; he is a king, but not as the world understands kingship; he is a baby, yet all-powerful.
Through his life and teaching he makes clear why he has come to this world and what being his follower means: he is the servant king. If we truly follow him, people will know that we are his disciples by the way we love and serve one another.
Wisdom - assembly 8.1.21
Today we discussed the meaning of Wisdom, through shared readings from the Old Testament and the New. From King Solomon's prayer and the Lord's answer, we understand that Wisdom is not intelligence, or a store of facts. Wisdom is the ability to use what we know so as to act rightly and be just to all. Solomon, though a king, was humble enough to know what he lacked and then had confidence that God would answer his heart-felt prayer. In the same way, James tells us, "But if any of you lack wisdom, you should pray to God, who will give it to you; because God gives generously and graciously to all."
We prayed together, asking for the humility to know that we need God's help and strength every day.
In preparation for Remembrance Day on the 11th, we explored memory and the place of remembrance in our lives. Just as "dismember" means to take apart, "re-member" can be seen as a way of putting together and making whole again. We inherit all our traditions and stories, so that those whose memories we keep fresh through re-telling, commemoration or any other way, never really die for us.
We ended by thanking God for the gift of memory, which makes us who we are and helps us to find our place in our community.
All Saints Day
Today we honour all the saints. It is a day when we remember all the people who have lived their lives by doing the right things: serving, helping and loving people. These saints are now in heaven with God. It is also a day when we think about how we can learn from them and live our lives as God wants us to.
Saints were ordinary people like us, but they had a special love of God and of people. Saints loved all people without discrimination. They loved and served especially the poor, homeless and the unwanted. They also loved all creation. Saints teach us how to be kind and gentle to each other and to all people we meet.
You probably know or have heard about people who were really good and who lived their lives by serving and loving God and other people.
One saint well known to millions of people is Saint Francis of Assisi whose feast we observe on the 4th of October. Francis was born in Italy in 1182. St Francis gave up a life of wealth to live a life of poverty and preached to people about the life of Jesus Christ; people began to follow him because of the good things he was doing.
Let us think about how we can follow the example of St Francis and of many other saints and live our lives as God wants us to.
Dear Lord, we give you thanks for all the holy men and women who have lived throughout the world. As we try to follow your light and your guidance, help us to sow love and bring light to the darkness of our world. Inspire us to imitate the example of all the saints who followed your path and did your will.
St Francis was known for his love of nature and animals. There are many stories about Saint Francis and his preaching to animals. It is said that one day he was talking to some birds when they began to sing together. Then they flew into the sky and formed the sign of a cross.
St Francis is also famous for the following prayer:
"Lord make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred , let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith."
Think of how you can be an instrument of peace to others and sow love. Can you think how you can sow a light of faith and forgiveness in your family, school and community?
Dear children of St Margaret,
Welcome back to school after months of lockdown due to the virus. It is great to start the school year as a school community and enjoy each other’s presence and learn together once again. I can imagine how much you have been missing each other. We give thanks to God for his protection, love and care in the last few months of the pandemic. Think of all the good things you have received in the past few months from God through others.
In the Gospel of this weekend Jesus talks about forgiveness – Let us read Matthew 18:21-35
‘Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times I have to forgive him? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” answered Jesus, “but seventy times seven, because the Kingdom of heaven is like this. Once there was a king who decided to check on his servants' accounts. He had just begun to do so when one of them was brought in who owed him millions of pounds. The servant did not have enough to pay his debt, so the king ordered him to be sold as a slave, with his wife and his children and all that he had, in order to pay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before the king. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay you everything!’ The king felt sorry for him, so he forgave him the debt and let him go.
“Then the man went out and met one of his fellow servants who owed him a few pounds. He grabbed him and started choking him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he said. His fellow-servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back!’ But he refused; instead, he had him thrown into jail until he should pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were very upset and went to the king and told him everything. So he called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said. ‘I forgave you the whole amount you owed me, just because you asked me to. You should have had mercy on your fellow-servant, just as I had mercy on you.’ The king was very angry, and he sent the servant to jail to be punished until he should pay back the whole amount.”
The king is God, who is always merciful and forgiving with us if we ask, and if we try to change our ways. The servant is us. We sometimes find it hard to change our ways, to stop doing what we know is wrong.
Jesus tells Peter that he should forgive not just seven times, but seventy-seven times. Jesus is saying that there should be no limit to our forgiveness, just like there is no limit to God’s forgiveness. Think of the times when you have been forgiven. How did you feel?
Can you think of a time when someone has said sorry and tried to change and you did forgive them? How did you feel then?
This week let’s try our best to make a change in the way we treat other people, to say sorry when we have done something wrong, and to forgive and help others make a change in the way they behave.
Prayer: Merciful God, we are very sorry for all the things that we have done wrong. Forgive us and help us to try to forgive others as your son Jesus taught us. Thank you Lord, for bringing us together to start this new school year. Through your grace help us to treat each other with kindness, respect and love. Amen.
Learning from Lockdown
At this time of the year, we usually ask the children what they have learnt from the past year; what has gone well, what would they like to improve? This year, of course, the unusual circumstances of lockdown have been to the fore of most people's experience, so we asked, "What have you learnt? What is important to you?" The children produced the following responses, amongst others.
I’ve learnt to skip!
I’ve learnt to juggle
I’ve learnt how long 2m actually is
I’ve learnt that eating our lunch outside is really fun.
I’ve learnt about how important my friends are to me.
I’ve learnt about other ways to stay in touch with people.
I’ve learnt that having a daily routine is important
I’ve been more involved in family life
I’ve learnt to be more independent
I’ve learnt how to entertain myself
Let us hope that we all retain these lessons from lockdown, so that it becomes a valuable experience for us all.
The Seven "I am" sayings of Jesus
In John's gospel, Jesus describes himself in seven different ways:
“I am the bread of life” – John 6:35,
“I am the light of the world” – John 8:12, 9:5
“I am the door of the sheep” – John 10:7, 9
“I am the good shepherd” – John 10:11, 14
“I am the resurrection and the life” – John 11:25
“I am the way, the truth and the life” – John 14:6
“I am the true vine” – John 15:1
Together we talked about how each saying shows some aspect of Jesus and his mission amongst us. We then chose one saying which particularly appealed to us to focus on. How does this apply to us, what does it mean for us?
Today we talked about how we feel if we do not know where we are going; we are lost physically and emotionally, it is a very scary feeling.
But in this passage, Jesus tells us not to worry: he has taught us everything we need to know. So we know where we are going, "No one goes to the Father except through Me"; we know how to get there because Jesus reveals the truth to us and the truth is eternal life.
What would we do to show that we are followers of the Way? Do we always show our love by our actions, or have we let our hearts be afraid? Now is the time to think of what we can do, even the smallest thing to start with.
I loved reading the children's comments on Seesaw and hearing their resolutions.
Thank you for joining me for assembly this morning and see you next week.
The Good Shepherd
This has links with Sunday's readings, but really springs from a meditation written by a Year 6 child. Please visit the class pages for the full text.
"Jesus has overcome death, torture and betrayal. Even though he knew they were going to happen and he still sacrificed himself to redeem all of our sins so we could know we would always be forgiven by God no matter what the circumstances. When things are not going well, you need to keep hope in God because no-one but God knows what is coming next."
I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. John 10:14-15
In all the world faiths there is an idea of pilgrimage. The children looked at images from around the world, and discussed what they showed.
They then thought about what a pilgrimage actually is for: to move out of everyday routine, to travel far, perhaps to test yourself physically and mentally, to discover what is really important. They ended up by saying that if you wanted to meet God, then you could do this without needing to leave home.
They were obviously seeing into the future, as we carried out this assembly at exactly this time last year.
Just as the disciples on the road to Emmaus, what are we discussing as we walk along?
St George's feast day falls this week, so this seems to be a good moment to think about saints.
When talking about saints with the children, we often start by discussing saints from the past. They notice that many of the saints were very ordinary people who made mistakes and yet did something extraordinary for God. The children always conclude by agreeing that they, too, could be saints; that we are all called to sainthood through baptism.
At this time of coronavirus we are acutely aware of those who do something extraordinary every day for those in need. There are many saints among us, known only to God.
"Whatever you do for the least of my brothers, that you do unto me."
This meditation was based on Psalm 91:
Together with the children, we thought about what it feels like to be lifted up, how our hearts can soar and what makes us feel that huge rush of joy. They had many moments to share - mostly based upon family experiences and wonder at the natural world. These are their words:
It feels like the right thing to be sharing again in these times when we all need to feel lifted up.