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Navigation Notes

To explore the journey of faith using a nautical theme

by The Revd Dr Philip Hesketh and the Revd Catherine Williams

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To explore the journey of faith using a nautical theme.

Preparation and materials

  • A sextant - a real one if possible, or a picture of one to project on an OHP.


  1. Show the children the sextant and ask them to guess what it is, who would use it, and where it would be used.

  2. Explain that a sextant is a very important instrument that helps sailors work out where they are at sea. It's used for navigation - finding your way about. It was invented in 1757 following an idea suggested by Captain John Campbell, and was immediately very successful because it is very accurate and it made navigation much easier for sailors.

  3. Explain that the sextant helps sailors to know where they are by using measurements from three things: the stars or the sun, the horizon (where the sky meets the sea) and the water. So sailors check these three things in order to make sure they are going in the correct direction.

  4. Make the point that we are all on a journey, the journey of life, and that can also be a journey of faith, travelling with and to God. Christians (and members of other faiths too) traditionally use three things to help them navigate their journey of faith:

    Scripture (and holy books): for Christians this is the Bible. Scripture tells us about God, and teaches us about our faith. Scripture contains wisdom about God and life.

    Tradition: the people who have gone before us and who show us the way to follow. These might be saints or holy people, or our families or teachers or friends. We can learn about our faith from the lives of others.

    Reason: God has given each of us a good mind, intelligence and the ability to work things out. We use our brains to help us with our faith, and to help us work out which way to follow, and to ponder the mysteries of God.

  5. You may wish to make the point that for Christians Jesus is rather like the sextant, pointing the way to God the Father. When Thomas said to Jesus that he wasn't sure which was the right way to go, Jesus said: 'I am the Way, the Truth and the Life' (John 14.6). For Christians, following Jesus helps them go the right way on their journey of faith.

Time for reflection

Ask the children to sit quietly, close their eyes and imagine themselves in a small boat on the sea. Say that wherever they go, God promises to be with them. Say this Scottish prayer.

Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the God of peace to you.


'One more step' (Come and Praise, 47)
'The journey of life' (Come and Praise, 45)

Publication date: October 2003   (Vol.5 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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