Secondary: Current Assemblies
Suitable for Whole School
To encourage and develop an attitude of respect and reverence for all people.
Preparation and materials
- Begin with the words of one of the great cultural icons of our time – ‘A big up to the [insert school’s name here] posse.’
- Say: ‘If you took offence at such an informal greeting I might well ask “Is it ’cos I is black?” (I certainly hope not!!)’
- Comment that the audience would have to be very intellectually elite to pretend ignorance – or even worse – be genuinely ignorant about popular culture, if they don’t recognize these as the catchphrases of Ali G. Ali G is the fictional hip-hop character created by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, a graduate of Cambridge University.
- But of course the phrase which defines the Ali G phenomenon, and indeed the entire hip hop movement, is ‘Respect!’ It could be argued that the origin of the entire hip-hop movement is about a call for respect from impoverished and marginalized sections of American society.
- Respect is of course very much on the political agenda of our day – Tony Blair has vowed to bring respect back into British society – indeed, there is even a cabinet minister overseeing the respect agenda.
- Let me tell you a story which illustrates respect:
It concerns a man called Trevor Huddlestone, who was a famous English bishop. Huddlestone was working in a black township in South Africa called Sophiatown in the 1940s. This was a time in South Africa when black people were downtrodden in every way imaginable.
As Bishop Trevor was walking along, an imposing figure in his black robes, he saw a poor black woman of no great significance walking along the road with her scrawny son. As she approached, Trevor Huddlestone did something quite remarkable, indeed revolutionary. He doffed his hat and said good morning!
The woman’s son could not believe it. Here was a figure of such great authority – a white English clergyman – lifting his hat to a woman who did nothing grander than clean other people’s homes.
That woman’s son was Desmond Tutu, who was himself to become a bishop and one of the greatest campaigners for justice and human rights the world has ever known. Desmond Tutu never forgot the respect shown to his mother by Trevor Huddlestone that morning in the township – and it is respect for all God’s children that characterize Tutu’s own ministry.
- Respect is not about the deference you show to people in authority – most of us are not stupid enough to openly show disrespect to the head teacher. Respect is about recognizing the infinite worth of every human being – even those who have no power over you. Respect is about how you treat the quiet kid in Year 7, or the person that serves your food at lunch or the homeless person you pass in the street.
- Respect is about recognizing that every human being carries within them the Divine Image – this was made clear in the creation story at the beginning of the Bible. (Read Genesis 1.26–31.) Respect is about having reverence for every human being.
- The person sitting next to you may strike you as being a bit odd but, if you look with spiritual eyes, you will see them (and indeed everyone in this assembly) for what they truly are – bearers of the Divine Image.
- It is this understanding of human beings as made in God’s image that shaped the lives of Desmond Tutu and Trevor Huddlestone.
May we follow their example in showing a reverence for all creation? Respect!
Time for reflection
When will we learn that human beings are of infinite value because they have been created in the image of God, and that it is a blasphemy to treat them as if they were less than this?
(Archbishop Desmond Tutu)
Help us to remember always
that everyone is your creation and your child,
and give us the patience to treat others
with the consideration they deserve.
Though we may at times dislike other people,
sometimes with good reasons, sometimes with none,
keep us mindful that they are still worthy of our respect.
‘The family of man’ (Come and Praise, 69)