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Torchbearers: The Olympic torch relay and the festival of Pentecost

To affirm teamwork and the values of peace, unity and friendship.

by The Revd Alan M. Barker

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To affirm teamwork and the values of peace, unity and friendship.

Preparation and materials


  1. Introduce the assembly by saying that soon the Olympic Games will begin, but before then a flame is burning a way across the United Kingdom!’

    Invite everyone to enjoy viewing the animated video (, and pinpoint any local landmarks.
  2. Observe that excitement is growing as the Olympic Games draw near. The opening on 27 July will be signalled by the lighting of a flame in the Olympic stadium. This flame will be lit from the ‘Olympic torch’, which was lit by the sun’s rays at Olympia in Greece on 10 May.

    The Olympic torch will reach the UK on 18 May. It will then be carried for 70 days through more than 1,000 cities, towns and villages in the UK, starting at Land’s End in Cornwall on 19 May. (Identify the route that the torch will take through your region and when it might be seen, see ‘Preparation and materials’.)

    The flame will only be able to make this long journey because of teamwork. There will be a relay. Altogether 8,000 torchbearers will cooperate to carry the torch, each person running with it for 300 metres, and then passing it on to the next runner.
  3. Explain that the flame represents peace, unity and friendship. The relay will draw millions of people together.

    If a member or friend of the school community is taking part as a torchbearer, invite that person to your assembly to talk about what is involved. Alternatively, ask the school community to imagine what it might be like to be a torchbearer and part of a huge celebratory event. See:
  4. At this point the themes of peace, unity and friendship might be celebrated in dance.
  5. Church schools may wish to refer to the Christian festival of Pentecost (Whitsuntide), which this year is on 27 May. Pentecost affirms the importance of teamwork: it tells of excited crowds, and celebrates the passing on of the Christian message by Jesus’ first followers.
  6. Retell the story of Pentecost along the following lines.

    Arrange 12 tea lights in a circle. Light these one by one during the first half of the story. At ‘Now it was time to pass it on’, light the remaining tea lights and pass them on for members of the school community to hold.

    Jesus was alive! His friends knew that.
    They had seen him.
    Not all the time, but at different times, in different places.
    Then he had left them to go to his Father in heaven.

    Jesus’ friends missed him very much,
    but they remembered all he had told them.

    They talked together,
               shared together.
                          prayed together.
    They became a team!

    One morning, on the festival of Pentecost,
    when they were all together,
    Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be with them.
    Now they knew that Jesus was with them
    at all times and in all places.

    For weeks, they had kept Jesus’ teaching alive.
    Now it was time to pass it on to others.
    As they prayed and sang songs together
    their faces shone with joy
    and their love spread like a bright flame,
    catching hold on others who gathered round.

    Soon, more and more people were inspired.
    The light of Jesus would never go out.
    Everyone could see it.
    Wherever they went,
    the first Christians
    passed the flame on.
  7. Refer back to the significance of the Olympic flame and conclude by reflecting that hopefully both the Olympic torch relay and the Christian festival of Pentecost will inspire peace, unity and friendship.

    Those who watch the flame will share their experience with many others and, like the first followers of Jesus, will have an incredible story to tell. 

Time for reflection

How will teamwork be important for you today?
What will be your moment to shine?
In what ways might you encourage someone to keep the flame of faith and hope burning?


‘Let the world rejoice together’ (Come and Praise, 148)

‘Give it all you’ve got’ (Songs for Every Assembly, Out of the Ark Music)

Reprise ‘Spinnin’ for 2012’ as the assembly ends.

Publication date: May 2012   (Vol.14 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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