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Slow Down

World Mental Health Day (10 October)

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To show how we need to become aware of stressful situations and the need to slow down.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a few volunteers to mime kitchen jobs, practising these movements a little in advance. These could include turning on the tap and doing some washing-up, drying dishes, sweeping the kitchen floor, taking clothes out of the washing machine, cleaning the windows, making a cup of tea, cooking, opening a tin of something and weighing out the ingredients for a cake.
  • Familiarize yourself with the story of Martha and Mary in the passage Luke 10.38-42 and either use the version included in the 'Assembly', Step 2, or your own, as suits your audience best.
  • Have available the song ‘The 59th Street Bridge Song’ by Simon and Garfunkel and the means to play it at the beginning and end of the assembly (optional).


  1. Explain that some volunteers are going to mime actions today. Ask the children to watch carefully and identify what is happening in each mime.
    The volunteers do the mimes that they have practised.

    Ask the children the following questions.

    - Where would you expect to see all these things happening?
    Who in your family spends the most time in the kitchen?

    Identify that often mums or whoever does the cooking at home spends the most time in the kitchen.
  1. Ask the children when the kitchen might become a stressful place.

    Mention that there is a story in the Bible about just such a time. It is about two sisters, Martha and Mary, in the passage Luke 10.38-42, then tell the following story or use your own.

    Jesus visits Martha and Mary

    There were two sisters called Martha and Mary. Both were kind and hardworking women who had a very simple home that they kept neat and tidy.

    One day, Jesus and his disciples came walking through their village.

    'Please stop by our home,' said Martha. 'Come in out of the sun and have a rest.'
    'Oh yes,' enthused Mary. 'We would love to have you.'

    Jesus and his disciples were very pleased to have this invitation and soon Martha and Mary’s house was full of guests. Now Martha didn’t have much bread that day, so she set to work in the tiny kitchen to make some food. It was hot and there were a lot of guests.

    'Right, Martha,' she said to herself, 'some cool water is what Jesus and his friends will need first.' So she hurried to the well to collect some fresh water and gathered as many cups as she could find. 'Thank you Martha', said Jesus. He was sitting on the floor surrounded by all his friends. 'Now I hope that yeast has risen', thought Martha as she floured her little kitchen table. She began to get hot and bothered as she kneaded the dough.

    'Where on Earth is Mary?' she thought, but she didn’t have time to go and look. 'Oh no', she cried as she dropped an egg on the floor in her hurry.

    The flat bread needed to be turned on the griddle, the next batch of dough was in need of attention and she was beginning to get in quite a flap. 'Where is Mary?!' she said in agitation.

    Have you ever seen your mum or dad in a flap in the kitchen when things get too hectic? That’s the very time when tempers can become frayed and arguments can start!

    Martha glanced through the doorway and couldn’t believe her eyes. There was Mary, her sister, sitting at Jesus’ feet, drinking in every word, looking as if she didn’t have a care in the world! That was the last straw! With flour on her nose and dusting her hair, Martha made a rather flustered entrance.

    'Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself?'

    Now, you may have expected Jesus to say something like, 'Oh, poor Martha, you are obviously working so hard. Mary, of course you should be in the kitchen giving her a hand. There is a lot of food to prepare for all these guests. Off you go and help. Sorry, Martha.' After all, it’s not fair that one person should have to do all the work and become so stressed, is it?

    Jesus did not say anything like that, though. He saw that Martha was worried and upset - in fact, she was very frazzled - but he said, 'Actually, Mary chose the better place to be. She has chosen to sit at my feet and listen.'
  2. Now, what do you think of that?! Many people will say that this was very unfair of Jesus. After all, Martha was doing a good and kind thing, trying to feed all the guests. Jesus was not telling Martha off, however. He loved his friend Martha. He loved her enough to say, 'Slow down, dear Martha. Don’t be distracted by things such as food, which are very nice but not the most important thing right at this moment. Come, sit down and listen - just enjoy being with me.'

Time for reflection

Do you ever feel overwhelmed, that there are just too many things in need of your attention?

Let’s just sit quietly for a few minutes, take some nice deep breaths and relax. Remember how much God loves us.

Dear God,
You know how busy and stressful our lives can get.
Teach us to slow down and consider what is really important.


‘Spirit of God’ (Come and Praise, 63)

Publication date: October 2015   (Vol.17 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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