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An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive

Suitable for Key Stage 1/2


To translate the ideas behind a powerful Christian symbol into the lives of the children. 

Preparation and materials

  • a wooden or paper model of a bird where the wings flap if suspended
  • paper bird silhouettes that could be suspended from a stick/branch/coat hanger
  • a recording of ‘The Lark Ascending’ by Vaughan Williams
  • a collection of artefacts that incorporate the symbol of the dove. This could include: jewellery; book illustrations, e.g. manuscripts, calligraphy; prints of work by major artists; pictures of stained glass windows; designs on pottery; greetings cards; logos.


The many characteristics of the Holy Spirit have given us a rich variety of symbols. The dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit as:

  • the bringer of peace
  • the bringer of good news;
  • the bringer of power.

The focus of this collective worship is the dove as bringer of good news.

  1. Begin by exploring the feelings evoked by the presence of a bird. The children might have held one, or experienced one flying and landing nearby.

    You could ask one child to bring their arms to rest on the shoulders of another.

    You could ask a group of children in advance to prepare a movement sequence on the theme of birds coming to rest.

    A piece of music such as ‘The Lark Ascending’ provides a real sense of a bird moving through the air.

    The children could also use their hands to make a bird, holding them high above their heads and bringing them gently to rest.

    A sheet or parachute falling gently over a group may also help them to express the feeling of a bird descending.

  2. The image of the dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit bringing good news. Tell the children about a time when you have received good news and the feelings you had then. Ask them to share some experiences and draw out the joy and comfort that good news brings.

    Consider times in the life of Jesus when he brought good news: the announcement of his birth, healing episodes, the resurrection.

  3. Explore with the children what messages of peace or good news they might send. These could be to another class in school, or to someone who is ill. They could be peace blessings to be written on paper birds and hung at the school entrance. They could actually be written during the act of worship and perhaps decorated later. Older children might like to consider messages to public figures or to other schools. This can be particularly valuable if a member of the clergy or school adviser has a link and can encourage a response. If the school is in contact with a school internationally, then messages of peace and support can be particularly meaningful.


The statement by Robert Kennedy, beginning:

Each time a man stands up for an ideal

or acts to improve the lot of others . . .

could begin a discussion with older children on the impact of just one simple message of peace or good news. It can be found in When All the World's Asleep compiled by Liz Attenborough, ISBN 978–1–902618–73–9. 

Time for reflection

Ask the children to think of a time when they have heard good news and what their feelings were.


Ask them to think of someone who is in need of good news and what they (the children) would really like to be able to say. This could be someone they know or a child they imagine in a conflict area of the world.

During the reflection the music could be played again or a bird mobile hung in front of the children as a focus.

A suitable prayer would be 'Where there is hatred or hunger . . .' from Prayers for a Fragile World by Carol Watson and Rhian Nest James, ISBN 978–0–745937–05–2. 


‘The Lark Ascending’ by Vaughan Williams

The songs 'Shalom' and 'The Love of God' are both sung messages of goodwill and could be played together with a mime of children offering peace. 

Follow-up activities

If classes have a message board or a policy of interactive writing, you could encourage good news messages there.

Teachers might be able to develop dance or movement sequences based on a bird descending. This could be performed as part of a follow-up assembly.

A more challenging task for older children is to look at how the dove has become a universally understood image and symbol of peace.

Look at the dove in Picasso's work. Older children could discuss its significance.

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