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Christian Rebels: St Clare

An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive

Suitable for Key Stage 1/2

Aims

Helps children to think about poverty and wealth.

Preparation and materials

Set up two displays which will combine visually extreme poverty and a wealthy, maybe extravagant, lifestyle. The purpose is to emphasize those things that we take for granted as part of our everyday lives but which, for others, will be absolute luxuries.

You might want to use items relevant to each key stage. It is a good idea to include items which pupils can relate to. There is certainly room for discussion about what these might be. Here are some possible examples:

Poverty

  • simple food items
  • old clothes
  • low-budget toiletries

 Wealth

  • chocolate cake
  • ready-made meals etc.
  • trainers, 'designer labels', brand label items 

Assembly

  1. Ask pupils to consider what items in their lives they believe to be too important to give up.

    What makes their lives comfortable?

    How would their lives change without them?

    Under which conditions would they have to give something up or choose to give it up?

  2. Explain that these days, we would still have a very comfortable life even if we gave up those things we thought to be crucial. However, it was not like that hundreds of years ago, in the thirteenth century, as a young girl called Clare found out.

    Against everyone's wishes, and unusually so for girls of that time, she gave up everything to follow a monk called Francis who taught that people should live as Jesus had taught . . . giving up everything to follow him and become like him. But many people agreed with her and helped her.

    Despite her extreme beliefs about leading a harsh life, she was popular and loved by all as a kind and holy lady. Many people followed her and became nuns, living in the convent she founded.

    Clare even stood up to and rebelled against the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope, by refusing to own lands and buildings for the convent. She believed that only absolute poverty would be approved of by God. She rebelled three times.

    Her convent grew and many gladly followed her 'rebellious' example to give up everything and follow Jesus.

Time for reflection

Line up several items in order of chosen priority for essential living (maybe ten maximum). Listen to ‘Wonderful World’ by Louis Armstrong or ‘The Living Years’ by Mike and the Mechanics. Gradually, one by one, remove items and ask pupils to think how it makes them feel. At which point did they feel they could not give up any more items?

Do the same with 'life essentials', e.g. water, bread, medicine, food, clothes, etc.

At the end, leave a minute or two for silence.

Prayer

Let us desire nothing else
Let us want for nothing else
Than our creator, redeemer and saviour.
Amen.

Follow-up work

Use a search engine on the internet to find one of the many websites for the 'Poor Clares'.

Find out about life at the time of Clare, at the beginning of the thirteenth century. Clare died in 1253 after 30 years of illness.

There is still an order of St Clare today. Find out about what its nuns do.

For discussion

If people were to act today as Clare did, what would happen? Would it have any effect at all?
Who might it affect most?
Would absolute poverty be an asset or would it cause problems?
What is poverty?

Publication date: May 2015   (Vol.17 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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