Schools: R.E. Bible Day
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path... Psalm 119 v 105
As we had already held a successful R.E. Worship Day we decided to hold a similar day with a focus on the Bible.
We felt that dividing the children into five mixed age groups with around 30 in each group had worked well and was worth doing again. After an introduction the groups would rotate around five different areas.
The Bible is such a large subject that it was hard to know what to choose! After much discussion we decided to focus on five: an overview of the whole story of the Bible from Creation to Salvation; a look at the Prophets; how the Bible has come down to us; how Christians today use the Bible and the Bible in worship.
You can download a PDF of the scripts: here
We began by telling the children how the Bible had begun with people telling stories around camp fires, before being written down, firstly on papyrus scrolls and then on parchment. We continued with the invention of the printing press and the coming of printed Bibles.
We used the Godly Play bookcase containing the books of the Bible to introduce the idea that the Bible is not one book but many.
Different genres of books have different coloured covers - for example there is one colour for the histories, a different one for the major prophets and another colour for the books of poetry such as Psalms and Proverbs.
1 The Big Story of the Bible
"In the beginning there was nothing..."
We felt that the Bible is often presented to children (and adults!) as a collection of random stories so we wanted to have one session that showed the whole story from creation to salvation.
A hollow square was made by laying different coloured cloths on the floor to act as underlays for the story.
Symbols and artefacts were made into "parcels" by wrapping in coloured cloths. The children sat around the outside of the square while the storyteller moved around the square, unwrapping the parcels and using the contents to tell the story.
The story began with Creation, wrapped in a black cloth and went on to tell of Adam and Eve who disobeyed God and had to leave the garden.
This was followed by the story of God's promise to Abraham (brown cloth) that he would be the father of a great family and then by the story of Moses in Egypt (dull yellow cloth) including the ten commandments.
The promised land was wrapped in a green cloth. God sent kings (including King David) to help the people of God but still they broke his rules and turned away from him. A crown was used to symoblise this and the people of God were represented by small stars. The times of exile were shown by tipping the stars out of the crown and scattering them, the return to the promised land by gathering the stars back together.
Finally the last parcel, wrapped in rainbow colours, was opened. Jesus's life was described from the incarnation (with a baby figure) through to crucifixion and resurrection:
"He told everyone that because of how he died and came back to life, everyone could be part of the Kingdom of God."
A dove was used to represent the coming of the Holy Spirit:
"Jesus promised that one day he would come back again, and he would make the Earth all new, just like it was in the beginning."
As part of their response the children were invited to choose different coloured wool to plait together. One strand of wool was a reminder that God never deserts his people and is present throughout the story.
2 The Prophets
"Some people come so close to God and God comes so close to them that they know what God wants them to say or do. These people are called prophets... "
We felt that the prophets and their books would probably be the most difficult for the children to understand so we decided to make one session about them. The script was adapted from the Godly Play script and began with an account of the exile in Babylon.
The story focused on four prophets:
Jeremiah, who despite imprisonment, ridicule and opposition, continued to warn people of the destruction of Jerusalem
Isaiah's message of hope: "The people that have walked in darkness have seen a great light..."
Ezekiel and his vision of the dry bones - "Can these bones live?"- and also his vision of the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem.
Jonah, the reluctant prophet, included as the story was likely to be familiar to the children.
The stories were followed by a couple of wondering questions "I wonder what you liked best?" and "I wonder what a prophet might say to people today?" before moving on to a free response using the art materials and the Godly Play response materials.
3 Pass it on
We wanted the children to understand how the Bible had come down to us through the centuries and decided to show this using drama.
We printed off a list of centuries 100, 200, 300 etc and placed these around the outside of the space.
We then put in five "stopping places" along the way. When each group entered they were asked to sit in a circle, filling in the gaps between the stopping places.
We had chosen to use the Year 3s and 4s to act out the stories and I had previously gone into school to give them a quick practice so they knew what was happening.
To keep it simple, costumes were kept to a minimum - cloaks, shirts and hats if appropriate. Each child had a line from the Bible to read out, but the action was mostly mime.
After each story was told a Bible was passed from hand to hand around the circle until the next stopping place with the refrain: "Pass it on, pass it on..."
The stopping places were:
Paul: an upended table covered in hessian became Paul's prison. We told of his experience on the Damascus road, his travels and his time in prison writing letters to the churches. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud."
Luke: two more upended tables covered in black cloth became the ship Luke and Paul travelled in across the Mediterranean. We told of his shipwreck and the writing of his gospel and Acts.
"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?"
A monk (the only generic character): A cloth was laid down for the monk's bed. We described the monks' day of prayer and activity including his work copying out the Bible. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
Constance Hopkins: Another ship - Constance travelled to America in the Mayflower. We talked about the colonists taking the Bible to America, and turning to it in times of trouble. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."
Brother Andrew: A rather makeshift car! We had two characters here, Brother Andrew and a guard and told the story of Brother Andrew smuggling Bibles across the Romanian border in full view of the guards.
"The Lord is with me. I won't be afraid."
Finally the Bible was given to the guard who held it up and said: "This is the word of God."
The children were asked "I wonder what you liked the best?" and "I wonder if we could leave out any of these stories."
Response activities included each child finger printing a cloth to show how people had been involved in passing the Bible on; illuminating letters (in memory of the work of the monks); and playing with the linking figures.
4 The Bible in worship
We used the school hall for this session.
We wanted to show how the Bible was used in worship and chose several worship songs based on Bible verses to teach to the children.
These included John Hardwick's "How broad, how long, how high, how deep, is the love of Christ" (Ephesians 3 v18 and Romans 8v38) and "Be kind and compassionate to one another" (Ephesians 4 v32)
Both these songs had been inspired by verses from Paul's letters, which added another dimension to our look at the Bible.
The songs were accompanied with signing and actions.
5 Your word is a lamp to my feet
A black road was laid out down the centre of the classroom and the children were asked to sit each side.
We had asked five members of our churches to contibute to this by asking them to choose a Bible verse or passage that had a special meaning for them. These were put on different coloured card along with a brief account of why this was special them. The envelopes were placed at intervals along the road.
"Christians believe that although the Bible was written down by many different people, God gave them the words to write. So they believe the words of the Bible are God's word.
"There is a verse in the Bible which says 'Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.' Christians believe that God's words in the Bible can help them find their way through life, just like a lamp lights up a path to walk along. As this lamp is carried along our path, we will hear how God's word has been a light to the path of some Christians."
Two children were chosen, one to carry the lantern and one to carry the Bible. As they made their way along the road they stopped to read each card; one child read the Bible passage and the other the personal account.
God's word says:
"I know that my Defender lives, and in the end he will stand upon the earth. Even after my skin has been destroyed, in my flesh I will see God." Job 19:25-26
Tony says "Whenever I feel a bit unsure about anything to do with my faith, how much God loves me or if people laugh at me because I'm a Christian, I remember Job's words of certainty, even in the most difficult time. It's like God has made me a promise and wanted me to remember it whatever life throws at me."
God's word says "I know that my Defender lives, and in the end he will stand upon the earth. Even after my skin has been destroyed, in my flesh I will see God." Job 19:25-26
Everyone responded with "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."
The children were asked:
I wonder which word you remember the most?
I wonder if you felt any of the Christians on the path were a bit like you?
I wonder if any of the words were special for you?
In response the children designed their own lanterns, writing or drawing words or stories that were special to them or had encouraged them.
The school came back together for a short time of worship. The leader began by asking the children about their response to the different activities.
Three children were then invited to come the front to hold up the words "Past", "Present" and "Future". The leader spoke about how the Bible had been passed on through history to us in the present, and about our role in passing it on to the future.
The Bible, wrapped in the finger printed cloth, was then passed on to the child holding the future card.
We finished by singing "How broad, how long..."
How well did it work?
It turned out that we had chosen the hottest day of the year for this event!
One session upstairs in the "Godly Play room" for the telling of the Prophets story was too much; even with two fans going the room was unbearable.
We used the 15 minute break to bring everything downstairs to an empty classroom!
Despite the heat the children engaged well, even in the hall for the action songs! Their verbal responses tended to be more muted than usual but it was clear that they had enjoyed the day and got a lot out of it.
We felt that the day had more structure and was better balanced than the previous R.E. day. In particular the music session, led this time by the music teacher, worked much better.
As before, the mixed age groups worked well, with the older children encouraging the younger ones to participate.
Sarah, with Clare Reed (RE co-ordinator), Rowena Berridge, Anna Shepherd, Becky Chapman and Marie Ashman