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Caring for God's Creatures

Animal conservation is part of stewarding God's world

by The Revd Guy Donegan-Cross

Suitable for Key Stage 2

Aims

To explore the idea that animal conservation is part of stewarding God's world.

Preparation and materials

  • Optional: A video clip showing animal conservation in action (see 1. below).

Assembly

  1. An excellent way to start is with a video showing issues of conservation. Steve Irwin, the Australian conservationist, is brilliant at leaping onto dangerous animals, being enthusiastic about them, and highlighting issues of conservation. After the video clip, say that conservationists like Steve Irwin often say that people are more dangerous to animals than animals are to people.

  2. If you don't have a video clip, you can start here! Say that you are going to read out the names of some creatures. After each name you want the children to guess whether the creature is a bird, an animal or a fish. Read each name and then ask the children to put up their hands to show which option they think it is. Give the answer after each question.

    Cottidae (fish)

    Lord Howe white-eye (bird)

    Salado shiner (fish)

    Flat-headed myotis (animal)

    Black mamo (bird)

    Bagangan (fish)

    Cayman hutia (animal)

    Thicktail chub (fish)

    Lesser Cuban nesophont (animal)

    New Caledonia wood rail (bird)

    Lesser bilby (animal)

    Oahu `akepa (bird)

  3. After the quiz, ask the children what they think all the creatures have in common. Answer: you will not find any of them anywhere on earth. They are all extinct. And some of them are extinct because of the actions of people. Say that we have a job to do - to look after animals, particularly endangered species. Give the example of the Sumatran tigers - there are only 400 left in the wild.

  4. Tell the children about St Francis, who lived a long time ago (800 years). He loved animals and had a special relationship with them. He would pick worms up off the road so they would not get trodden on! Tell the following story:

    One day, Francis and his friends were walking through the Spoleto valley in Italy. Suddenly, Francis spotted a great number of birds. There were doves, crows, every variety of bird you could think of. Swept up in the moment, Francis left his friends in the road and ran after the birds, who patiently waited for him. He greeted them in his usual way, expecting them to scurry off into the air as he spoke. But they didn't move.

    Amazed, he asked them if they would stay for a little while to hear about God. He said to them: 'My brother and sister birds, you should praise your Creator and always love him: he gave you feathers for clothes, wings to fly and all other things that you need. It is God who made you noble among all creatures, making your home in the thin, pure air. Without sowing or reaping, you receive God's guidance and protection.'

    At this the birds began to spread their wings, stretch their necks and gaze at Francis, rejoicing and praising God in a wonderful way. Francis then walked through the middle of the flock of birds, touching their heads and bodies with his tunic. Then he gave them his blessing, making the sign of the cross over them. At that they flew off and Francis, rejoicing and giving thanks to God, went on his way.

    Later, Francis wondered aloud to his companions why he had never preached to the birds before. And from that day on, Francis made it his habit to tell all birds, animals and reptiles to praise and love the God who made them. And many times during Francis's life there were remarkable events of Francis speaking to the animals. There was even a time when St Francis quieted a flock of noisy birds that were interrupting a church service! Much to the wonder of all present, the birds remained quiet until Francis had finished preaching.

  5. Conclude that Francis looked after animals because he believed one thing: that everything in the world belongs to God, and so all animals need looking after, especially the ones that may disappear.

Time for reflection

Ask the children to shut their eyes and imagine their favourite animal or bird - its shape, its colour, its movement. In their own words they can quietly give thanks for it.

Dear God,
Thank you that everything belongs to you.
Help us to care for the creatures you have made.
Amen.

Song/music

'God in his love' (Come and Praise, 76)

Publication date: April 2003   (Vol.5 No.4)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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