Month: May 2016

The Eucharist or Holy Communion

The origins of the Eucharist, also known as Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper or the Mass, go back to Jesus himself. It is based on the events of the Last Supper, when Jesus shared bread and wine with his disciples for the last time before his crucifixion. The account of this can be found in Matthew 26 vv 26-9, Mark 14 vv 22-5 and Luke 22 vv 14-20. His words ‘Do this in memory of me” were acted upon by the first Christians whom we hear of meeting to “break bread” together in the Acts of the Apostles Chapter 2 v 42. St Paul also talks about the Lord’s Supper, and gives the earliest account of it in I Corinthians chp 11. It seems at first that it was retained as part of a communal meal (sometimes referred to as an agape or love feast) but later emerged as a separate act of worship. It became a focal point of Christian worship and almost all Christian denominations use it.

Over the centuries in the two main branches of Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox, the Eucharist evolved its own elaborate ritual. By the time of the Reformation in the West the laity took communion very occasionally, and then only the bread. It was called the Mass and had by that time become almost the only service used in church, and one in which the congregation were onlookers rather than participants. The service was said in Latin, which only the educated could understand, and the action took place at the far end of the church so that people could not see what was happening. It was surrounded by superstition and mystery.

The Protestant movement in the 16th and 17th Centuries put greater emphasis on preaching than on the communion, and developed other kinds of worship which did not include communion. When they did hold a communion service they did so with the minimum of ritual and restored the practice of everyone taking both the bread and the wine sometimes substituted with a non-alcoholic drink


The beliefs about the Eucharist are reflected in the practices. Much of the argument at the Reformation concerned the doctrines about the substance of the bread and wine in the service, and the meaning of Jesus’ death. This had often been thought of as Jesus making a sacrifice of himself in order to placate God for the sins of mankind, much in the same way that animal sacrifices had been used previously. In this way the re-enactment of the Last Supper with its words ‘This is My Body” and ‘This is My Blood” was seen as a re-enactment of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. The table on which this took place was called an altar, part of the language of sacrificial worship. Much has been said and written about those words, and to what extent the bread and wine actually become in some way the body and blood of Christ. The doctrine which claims that the bread and wine become the real body and blood of Christ is called “transubstantiation”. One of the accusations levelled against the early Christians was that of cannibalism because of this. As it was always kept for those who were within the church those outside felt that there was an element of secrecy which encouraged such ideas. At one time anyone could attend the early part of the service which consists of readings from the scriptures and a sermon, but when the actual communion began they were asked to leave (The Latin for this was “Missa stint” meaning “they are sent away” – the origin of the term Mass). The need to ensure that all the bread which was consecrated was consumed, and the wine drunk comes from a belief in the sacredness of the elements of the communion. So do the practices of touching neither the chalice nor the consecrated bread but allowing the priest to put the latter straight onto the tongue.

Changes at the Reformation were to the beliefs about the communion and these brought about a change in practice. Rather than emphasising the idea of the re-enactment of a sacrifice, the Protestant movements saw the service as a memorial meal shared by Jesus’ followers. The bread and wine, while treated with the greatest respect, were seen as symbols rather than changing into the actual body and blood. The communion service was not held so often, as they felt it was more important to preach, and teach the people. The name of the altar changed back to the idea of a table, and some groups began to sit round a table to share this meal together. While going to the communion rail still occurs in some Protestant churches, including the Church of England, others take the bread and wine to the people in their places, often with the wine in individual cups rather than sharing the one goblet. This means that everyone can wait and then eat at the same time rather than take it in turns as they do at an altar rail. They will sit to receive their communion. In the Anglican church most people kneel at the altar rail, as they may do in Roman Catholic churches. However, there are places where it is more usual to stand to receive, as it apparently was in the early church.

The service of Communion is divided into two parts – the Ministry of the Word and The Ministry of the Sacrament

In the first part you will find prayers, readings from the Old Testament, the New Testament other than the Gospels, and a reading from the Gospels themselves. These readings are set out according to the time of year, and follow a particular theme. So it is that all churches on a particular Sunday will be hearing the same Biblical readings. There will be a sermon in most services, after which the Creed – the statement of the Christian faith will be said together by everyone. After the prayers of intercession, when the needs the world are thought of as well as our own needs, comes the Peace. Practice varies, but in many churches this is the point at which the congregation greet each other with the words “Peace be with you”, often shaking hands at the same time. This is an ancient practice which has been restored within the context of worship.

The offertory which comes next marks the beginning of the Eucharist itself. In this the people make their offering of money to God, as well as the bread and wine which are to be part of the Eucharist. In many churches this is taken up to the altar with the collection. There then follows the Eucharistic prayer, which is long, but does involve the people in various responses. There are several possible variations of this in the Common Worship service book, but all are based on ancient liturgies, and include giving thanks to God for all that he has done for mankind, and particularly for the life and work of Jesus. There is also the narrative of the Last Supper when the words “this is my body” and “this is my blood” are spoken over the bread and wine to be shared by those present. Further prayers are said and then the people are invited to come to the altar rail to receive communion.

After the communion itself, another prayer of thanksgiving is often included, or of dedication. There is the blessing and the service is ended. There may be hymns at various points in the service, and if they are included there is usually one at the end while the priest and his assistants leave.

Inviting Visitors to lead Collective Worship in Your School

Inviting visitors to lead collective worship requires time and organisation – here is a checklist of the things you should be doing and thinking about:

  • Make sure that the visitor is suitable – not everyone can talk to young people at an appropriate level! Meet the visitor beforehand to ascertain this, or ask to speak with other schools which they have visited.  Follow your school’s normal safeguarding procedures.
  • Speak to the visitor personally and discuss the format of the worship in advance. If they have not been to your school before, invite them to see a “normal” school act of collective worship before they lead one themselves.
  • The visitor will need to be briefed beforehand on: the length and timings of the worship; the number of pupils and their age range; the faith / cultural mix of the pupils; the usual format of collective worship; and whether there is anything special happening in the school that day which they could tie in to their theme. If the visitor is contributing to a theme lasting several days, you need to check that they are not planning to use a story or resource which someone else has used earlier.
  • Discuss in advance what resources the visitor will need (e.g. projector, table). Check any hymn they would like to use is known by the school – you may have to suggest an alternative to fit their theme. Ask how they like to be introduced. If they are travelling some distance it is right to check what expenses they require.
  • Send written or e-mail confirmation of the date and timings to the visitor, with a copy of any in-school guidance on collective worship. Make sure they have a contact number in case something prevents their coming on the day.
  • Ensure that the visitor is mentioned in staff notices – using whatever system is current in your school.
  • Make sure someone is available to welcome the visitor when they arrive. Give them an opportunity to set up the venue in advance if need be. Be hospitable!
  • When you introduce the visitor to the children do not steal their thunder by telling them what the visitor will be talking about – this might ruin the visitor’s plans if they were building surprise elements into the worship! Conversely, do not take up the visitor’s time by a lot of notices!
  • NEVER leave a visitor, even a regular visitor, to take an act of collective worship alone.
  • Try not to abandon the visitor at the end of the assembly – organise someone to say thank you and offer them a drink etc. Give the visitor some feedback on how things went – and, even though this might be difficult, don’t let visitors think all was well if issues arose during the worship (e.g. level of vocabulary). Most regular worship leaders appreciate professional feedback to help them improve.
  • If this is a one-off occasion follow up thank you letters from the children would be appreciated by the visitor

Sunday Before Lent Year A

Theme: The Transfiguration

Bible Reading

Matthew 17:1-9


Have a map available to show the Sea of Galilee, Caesarea Philippi and Mount Hermon (the most likely scene of the Transfiguration). Have a letter (details below) ready in an envelope.

The presence of Moses and Elijah at the moment of Jesus’ Transfiguration is significant as they represent the Law and the Prophets – the two great foundations of Jewish life – and they show that the Law and Prophets of what Christians now call the Old Testament were both pointing to the coming of Jesus as Messiah.


Discuss with the children what they know about Peter. Refer to his fishing on the Sea of Galilee, his brother Andrew, and their two friends James and John. Peter is the only disciple we know was a married man. Jesus healed his mother-in-law. Point out that Peter was away from home as he followed Jesus. His family would want to know what was happening. What follows is an imaginary letter that Peter might have written after the Transfiguration.

The Message

“Dear All of you,

At last a chance to write to you. Jesus has been so busy lately and we’ve hardly had a moment to ourselves. The crowds love him and want him to teach and heal them. But three days ago something really amazing happened.

Jesus asked James, John and me to go off with him. We left the others in Caesarea Philippi and walked towards the mountains. We climbed higher and higher. None of us are as fit as we were when we were fishing so we had to go slowly. As the light began to fade Jesus stopped. We were so tired that the three of us just crashed out. Not Jesus though – he was praying.

We woke up with the sound of voices. Jesus was talking to two other men. It’s hard to believe but it was Moses and Elijah. Moses who gave us God’s laws – the ten commandments. Elijah who was the greatest of the prophets.

Jesus was talking to them about how he was going to die in Jerusalem and what that would mean.

Well, you know me. I can never keep my big mouth shut! I blurted out, ‘It’s great being here. Let us make three shelters – one for you, and one for Moses and Elijah.’ Just then a cloud came down really quickly and covered the mountain. A voice seemed to come from the cloud. ‘This is my chosen Son. Listen to what he says.’ It was God speaking.

We were so terrified we fell flat on the ground. Jesus came over to us and helped us up. When we looked around Moses, Elijah and the cloud had all gone. There was just Jesus standing there.

Thinking about it later I know how important this time was for Jesus. Moses, Elijah and God his father were telling him to go on – to go to Jerusalem although he would die.

What a privilege it was to be there.

Must go, the crowds have all come back again. Hope to see you soon.

Love from Peter.”

Ask the assembly what they made of the story:

  • What would the family have thought when they read the letter?
  • How might what happened have helped Jesus?
  • How might what happened have helped Peter and the other disciples?


Jesus, friend and brother, Thank you for your courage in facing what lay ahead. Give us the courage to be and to do what pleases you.

Also this week you could hear some stories about Moses and Elijah – perhaps do this first then finish the week with the Transfiguration.

Epiphany Year A

Epiphany is 6th January

Theme: ‘Gifts’


Matthew chapter 2 verses 1-12


If you still have them available, bring out again the gifts of the Magi which were used in the school’s nativity play. If you have a nativity set on display, this should be left out until after the Epiphany assembly. You may wish to reprise part of your nativity play from last term.

You could use an incense stick, or similar, to create a strong perfume in the assembly hall – if you have something which is described as frankincense or myrrh, that would be even more evocative of the story.

You may like to sing one of the traditional carols about the Magi as your hymn.


One of the first questions you ask your friends at the beginning of the Spring Term is always “What did you get for Christmas?”, so let’s take this opportunity to share some news about our favourite presents this Christmas.

Did anyone get a present which is something to do with what they might like to be or do when they grow up e.g. building blocks, a football, a make-up kit, a doctor’s outfit, computer games?


If you were looking for presents for a toddler or a new baby, what would you get? (Are there any young babies amongst your school families? You could ask what they were given.)

The story we are remembering today is about the kind of presents the young child Jesus got from some rather special visitors, the presents were not very good presents for a young baby; they were all to do about what he was like, and what he would be when he grew up. Often we tell this story as part of the Christmas story, and act it out in a nativity play, but really this story takes place a few months after Jesus was born.

Tell the story of the visit of the Magi to Jesus – no doubt the children will be able to assist you with this, you might even like to replay the appropriate part of last term’s nativity play.

The three gifts were all gifts with messages:

  • The precious gold tells us how Jesus is like a king, and Christians believe he is King of the World
  • The expensive frankincense was used for worshipping God in temples, and it reminds us that Jesus is the Son of God
  • The myrrh is a perfume with a very strong smell and was used for burying with dead bodies to cover over their smell. It was a clue about how Jesus was going to die, and how important his death and resurrection would be to believers.

These three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh are probably the most famous presents of all time. The presents we had at Christmas may not have been quite so amazing or famous, but we have a lot to be thankful for, not just the material things but also the love of our families, health etc (you may like to collect other suggestions from the children here). For millions of people throughout the world though, their very best present will have been the coming of Jesus into the world, just like a present from God.


A prayer of thanks for the many different “gifts” we receive in our lives, and for the ultimate gift of Christ.

Taking the theme further this week you could:

  • Look at stories of precious things and gifts e.g: .the story of the pearl of great price Mtt 13.45f; the poor widow Lk 21. 1-4; the parable of the rich fool Lk 12.13-21;

Proper 20 Year C

Theme: Prayer


1 Timothy chapter 2 verses 1-7


Can anyone tell me what people are doing when they pray? I wonder if you choose to say prayers at any time? (Don’t ask for personal responses here unless children seem keen to offer them.)   Some people may say them at home, or at church, or at school in assembly, they might say them when they are looking at something beautiful, or feeling worried.   Some prayers very easy to say … like asking God to take care of my family or friends or even pets … or maybe thinking about some of the places we see on the TV where there is war or disaster … or people who have to live without a home. (You may refer to something current here.) Those kinds of prayers are quite easy to say if you care about the people you are praying for.

The prayers that most people find difficult are the prayers we are told to say for all those people they do not like very much. We have a letter in the Bible written by the great Christian leader Paul to his young friend Timothy telling him he must pray for everyone – not just the people he liked.


Jesus told his disciples that we must not bear grudges; when his friend Peter was moaning a bit, he asked Jesus whether he should forgive someone as many as seven times before he could “lose it” – no, said Jesus, much more than that 70 x7! (How much is that? Could you keep going that long? Should you actually be counting?) So yes, we should pray as much for those people we do not like as we do for all those people we do like! And this can sometimes be very difficult, especially when we think they have been deliberately nasty to us. Jesus told his disciples that, just like these other people, we have been bad at times – and God forgave us – so we must forgive others and pray for those we do not like. – Even if they have been very nasty to us.

All of this sounds, and is, quite difficult and sometimes we can find it very difficult to forgive someone when they have said something that makes us feel hurt. But we can always remember Jesus’ message that God forgives us whenever we say something that hurts someone else … and so we must forgive as God forgives us.

In Paul’s letter to Timothy he tells the churches to pray for everyone including the Kings and those in authority (government). Now in Timothy’s time, not all of the Kings were good -some were really evil. Even in our own country’s history some kings and queens have acted badly towards Christians and the Church. But throughout the whole time, the Church never stopped its prayers for the King or Queen -and it still prays for them today. (This could be an opportunity to remind the school about last term’s Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations and how special these were for everyone.)


Try to think of the person or people you dislike the most … (Pause) Now think that of the times you have hurt someone else …(Pause) Now try to pray for both them and yourself as you and me are forgiven by God… and have an opportunity to start again.

Lord God, Help me to be more like you in the way I treat people. Help me to continue praying for those who mean a lot to me … my family, my friends, my neighbours, my school … But also help me to learn to forgive those I do not like … and help me to pray for them too Lord. Amen

Taking the theme further this week you could: think about different kinds of prayer, including the importance of remembering to say thank you to God e.g: the healing of the ten lepers. Luke chp 17 vss11-19; in everything give thanks! I Thessalonians chp 5 vss 6-18;  or praying for the needs of others (Intercessions) choose two or three items from you LOCAL newspaper and discuss how they affect the children themselves and other people in the area.

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