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The Church's Birthday

To tell the story of Pentecost and to explore its significance.

by The Revd Alan M. Barker

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To tell the story of Pentecost and to explore its significance.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a white iced birthday cake decorated with a number of 'magic' re-lighting candles (available from party shops and some department stores).
  • Prepare a group of children for the Whitsuntide drama, or someone to read the story.
  • For notes on drama in assemblies, please refer to our Resources section.


  1. Place the birthday cake where everyone can see it, and invite the children to count the number of candles. Remind them that the number of candles can represent a person's age.

  2. Ask which of the children have birthdays coming up. Are they looking forward to them? Share the information that 19 May (2002) is the Christian Festival of Pentecost, or Whit Sunday. It's the 'birthday' of the Christian Church. The Bible tells how Jesus had promised that his followers would be helped and inspired by the gift of the Holy Spirit. They looked forward to the day when that gift would be given, but didn't know when it would be. It came as a surprise!

  3. Perform the sketch, or read Acts 2.1-4 from the New Testament.

    Disciple 1: How much longer must we wait? I'm tired and fed up of waiting.

    Disciple 2 (grumpily): It's been weeks now. I said we should have gone back home.

    Disciple 3: But Jesus said that we must wait and that the Holy Spirit would be sent to help us. He said …

    Disciples 4 and 5 (interrupting): What's that noise?

    Disciple 6: It sounds like the wind … and it's getting stronger!

    Disciple 3 (excitedly): It's not the wind, it's the Holy Spirit! Can't you feel it inside you?

    Disciple 5: There's a strange light! It looks like flame!

    Disciple 4: I feel so excited! I want to praise God!

    Disciple 1: The waiting's over! I could shout for joy!

    Together the group express praise and happiness in a cacophony of sound: 'Praise God!' 'Alleluia!' 'God is great!' 'Hurray, hurray!' 'We've got the spirit!' 'Wicked!' 'Mega!' etc.

  4. Explain that through this experience Jesus' followers were encouraged and inspired to carry on his work. For Christians, the gift of the Holy Spirit marks the beginning of the Church. There's a sense in which Pentecost is the Church's birthday.

  5. Light the candles on the cake and sing (to the tune of 'Happy Birthday'):

    Thank God for his love,
    Thank God for his love,
    For the gift of his Spirit,
    Thank God for his love.

  6. Blow out the candles (gently) and turn from the cake, saying, well, that's the story of Pentecost. Hopefully the children will express surprise that the candles re-light.

    Invite them to sing again and blow out the candles, again saying, and that's the story of Pentecost.

    This may be done for a third time.

  7. Conclude by pointing out that after almost 2,000 years, Christians still worship God together within the Church. The flame of faith and love hasn't been extinguished. The Holy Spirit is still at work. Every year at Pentecost the Church's birthday is something to celebrate!

Time for reflection

Lord God,
Thank you for the special times we enjoy and look forward to.
Help and encourage us when life is not easy.
May the flame of your love be kept alive in us today and always,
through the gift of your Holy Spirit.


'Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning' (Come and Praise, 43)
'Light up the fire' (Come and Praise, 55)

Publication date: May 2002   (Vol.4 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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