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Saint or Sinner

To encourage the idea of change for the better and the possibility of defying expectations.

by Gill O'Neill

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To encourage the idea of change for the better and the possibility of defying expectations.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need two sheets of A4 paper, each with the letters ST written on them so they can be read by all, and two safety-pins. (A stick of face paint could be used as an alternative.)


  1. Explain that you are going to tell a story and you will need two volunteers to help you. Go on to say that this is based on a true story about two brothers who lived in an English village a very long time ago. Choose your volunteers to be the brothers.

  2. Tell the story:

    These two boys began life the same as all of you, as babies. And just like you, they grew quickly and learned to do all sorts of things (ask the volunteers to act out activities as you list them, e.g. walking, talking, running, hopping, jumping, etc.).

    However, it wasn't long before the boys then learned a skill that was not very nice. They started to steal. At first they took just little things from around their home. But as they grew older and more confident they stole bigger things. The more they got away with the more they began to believe that they could steal whatever they wanted to.

    Thinking they were unstoppable, the two villains decided to steal a sheep (ask the volunteers to mime as you talk).

    One night, they crept stealthily on tiptoe to their neighbour's farm.
    They climbed over the fence.
    They ran around the field chasing a sheep.
    They caught the sheep and lifted it over the fence.
    They tied a rope around its neck and led it to their own house.

    (The volunteers can relax now, but you need to act out the role of the policeman as you continue with the story.) The following day the local policeman spotted the sheep, in their front room of all places, and arrested them at once. They were taken to court where the judge found them guilty and ordered them to be branded.

    The brothers were taken to the blacksmith's, where a red-hot iron with the letters ST was pressed on to their foreheads. (Pin the pieces of paper to the volunteers' tops, or write ST on their foreheads with face paint - explaining that you are not actually branding them.) The ST, which stood for 'Sheep Thief', would be with them for evermore.

    When the brothers recovered from their punishment they talked about what they should do. The first decided to go away to a foreign country where no one would know what the letters stood for. 'I can't live in a village where every time someone looks at me they will remember what I did,' he said.

    The other brother felt differently. He was sorry for what he had done and resolved to stay and live a better life.

    So that's what they did. The first brother found that even in a different country, because no one understood the letters everyone was suspicious of him, and would not befriend him. He spent his days wandering from place to place, hoping to be accepted somewhere.

    Back in the village, the other brother found at first that no one would speak to him. They were also suspicious of him and expected the worst. But he started to work hard, both for himself and for his neighbours. It wasn't long before people in the village got to know that here was a man who would help anyone in any way that he could. He was a changed man.

    Some years later, when a visitor to the village saw him and the strange letters on his forehead, he asked one of the villagers, 'Why does that man have those letters on his head? What does the ST stand for?' The villager shrugged, and said that he didn't know. 'It's probably something nice,' he went on, 'as he is the kindest, most helpful person in the village.' The visitor smiled and said, 'Why then, it's obvious - the ST must stand for SAINT!'

Time for reflection

Close your eyes and think…
Sometimes we get into the habit of behaving in a particular way…
Sometimes we feel that others are expecting the worst from us…
It can then be difficult to choose the right way to behave…
We should realize that despite what other people think or do, we can turn our lives around…
We ask God to give us the strength to become, in our ways,
Saints instead of sinners.


'Make me a channel of your peace' (Come and Praise, 147)

Publication date: February 2002   (Vol.4 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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