A Changed Person
Conversion of Paul (25 January)
by Alan M. Barker
Suitable for Key Stage 2
To celebrate and reflect on the story of the conversion of Paul.
Preparation and materials
- Find an image of St Paul’s Cathedral, London, and have the means to display it during the assembly (optional).
- A pair of dark sunglasses could be used to symbolize Paul’s experience of lost and regained sight (optional).
- Familiarize yourself with the story of Paul, given in the ‘Assembly’, Step 2, and either prepare to play the role yourself or enlist the help of a colleague to do so.
- Have available the song ‘Amazing grace’ and the means to play it at the end of the assembly or the lyrics to sing it. It has been chosen as it was written by John Newton to celebrate his own conversion.
- If using, display the image of St Paul’s Cathedral, without naming it, and invite the children to identify it.
Explain that many Christian churches are named after saints. A ‘saint’ is someone whose example inspires and helps others. Paul was a church leader who wrote many of the letters in the New Testament. He travelled widely to share the Christian message. He wasn’t always known by the name of Paul, though – nor was he always thought of as a saint!
- Invite everyone to listen to Paul tell his own story. If you are playing the part of Paul, turn your back to the audience for a few moments, then turn round, having assumed the role. Otherwise, hand over to the colleague who is to play him.
Monologue: ‘My name’s Paul’
Hello! My name’s Paul. I used to be called Saul.
Believe me, I wasn’t a nice person! I hated anyone who believed in Jesus. I wasn’t a kind person. I even stood by as they were killed.
I was an angry person. I found out where the Jesus people lived and dragged them off to prison. ‘That’ll teach them,’ I thought, ‘they should behave like everyone else.’ Other people agreed – ‘They deserve it,’ they said. ‘They think they’re better than us.’
Eventually all the followers of Jesus were terrified.
I set off to do the same in Damascus. It was a hot day and I felt hot and angry inside – very angry! Perhaps that’s what caused the blinding light.
Suddenly, I couldn’t see anything. I felt dizzy. I fell to the ground.
Put sunglasses on, if using.
A voice spoke to me.
‘Saul . . . Saul, why are you doing this to me?’
‘Who is it?’ I cried out.
‘It’s Jesus,’ said the voice. ‘Why do you hate me?’}
I still couldn’t see.
My friends took my hand and helped me along the road. I felt helpless and, I’ll admit it now, terrified. I realized that this was how I’d made other people feel. So I prayed and, although I didn’t deserve it, the God of Jesus heard my prayer. He sent help.
A man called Ananias came to pray with me. He was one of the Jesus people I’d set out to kill.
‘Brother Saul,’ he said. ‘The Lord has sent me.’
Ananias was so kind – and so forgiving.
Then my eyes were opened! I could see!
Take the sunglasses off.
What I’d done was awful, but I knew that God could change even someone as bad as me! I became a follower of Jesus, too – and now I want to tell everyone that good news!
So call me Paul – all my new friends do. It’s my Christian name – a different name. The name tells how much I’ve changed.
- Invite the children to respond to the story. In what ways did Saul change? Establish that:
– he was an enemy, but became a friend
– he was cruel, but learned kindness
– he was uncaring, but understood his actions affected others
– he didn’t consider the views of others, but grew in understanding
– he learned respect for God and others.
Saul’s change of name reflected his change of character. Explain that Christians describe such a change as a ‘conversion’.
- Conclude by reflecting that, today, many people across the globe continue to face hatred and violence because of their beliefs. The story of Saul challenges aggression shown towards the customs, faiths and traditions of others.
Time for reflection
Ask the children to think about their personal attitudes and behaviour and if there are any that they need to change.
The world peace prayer
Lead me from death to life,
from falsehood to truth.
Lead me from despair to hope,
from fear to trust.
Lead me from hate to love,
from war to peace.
Let peace fill our heart,
our world, our universe.
‘Amazing grace’ (Hymns Old and New (Kevin Mayhew), 34, 2008 edition)