A Community Celebrates Together
Educating for community and living well together
by Alison Thurlow
Suitable for Key Stage 2 - Church Schools
To support the Church of England’s third value in its vision for education: ‘Educating for community and living well together’.
Preparation and materials
- You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (A Community Celebrates Together) and the means to display them.
- Show Slide 1.
Explain that today’s assembly is going to consider what it means to be part of a community and what kind of things we might do to celebrate together as a community.
- Show Slide 2.
Ask the children to think about a recent celebration that they attended, such as a birthday party, wedding, christening, family meal or barbecue.
Ask the children to consider the following questions:
- Who attended the celebration?
- Were lots of people there or just a few?
- Were most people of similar age or were there people of various ages?
- What did you have to eat and drink?
- What did you enjoy most about the celebration?
You may wish to listen to a range of responses or invite the children to discuss their answers with others who are sitting close by.
- Comment that it is always interesting to hear about different celebrations and the different kinds of communities in which people are involved. Celebrations are happy occasions where people come together to enjoy each other’s company and celebrate as a community, whether the gathering is small or large.
- Explain that there are many stories in the Bible where people joined together in celebration. Ask the children if they can think of any of these occasions.
Listen to a range of responses.
Answers might include Passover, the wedding in Cana (when Jesus performed his first miracle of changing water into wine) and the times when people went to Jerusalem for various festivals.
Explain that today’s assembly considers a story in the Old Testament, which is the part of the Bible that was written before Jesus was born. It describes a community of people who had a lot to celebrate, so their celebration went on for days!
Show Slide 3.
- The Story of Ezra
The Jewish people had been taken captive and were living a long way away from the Promised Land, which was the land that they considered to be their home. They were sad because the temple in their holy city, Jerusalem, had been destroyed and the city walls had been knocked down, too.
Over time, some of the Jewish people had started to return to the city of Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and start worshipping God again. A man called Nehemiah was one of those who returned to Jerusalem and, with the help of many people, he rebuilt the city wall. There were quite a few problems, including being attacked by their enemies, but everyone joined in and the entire wall was completed in just two months. It was huge: it went right round the city and had 12 gates, all with different names.
After all that hard work, the people felt like celebrating. Everyone - men and women, boys and girls - came and stood in front of the Water Gate, one of the 12 gates in the wall.
The people built a special platform and the priest, whose name was Ezra, climbed onto the platform and stared at the crowd. He opened up an enormous book and started reading to them.
The crowd looked up expectantly and Ezra read to them from early morning until midday. He reminded them of all the good things that God had done for them. He prayed a prayer of praise to God and everyone joined in by shouting, ‘Amen! Amen!’
The people realized that they had often turned their backs on God and many of them began to cry. However, Nehemiah, the governor, told them not to be sad because God still loved them very much. He explained that today was a special day of celebration. Nehemiah urged the people to return to their homes, enjoy good food and drink together and share it with anyone in need. And that is exactly what the people did.
The celebrations went on for eight days! During this time, people built special shelters for their families to live in, so the celebration became known as the Feast of Shelters or the Feast of Booths. People of all ages came together, with the older ones taking the opportunity to remind the younger ones of what God had done for them in the past. During the festival, there was much feasting and the whole community enjoyed worshipping God together.
Time for reflection
Ask the children, ‘What can we learn from this story about being part of a community?’
Listen to a range of responses.
Make the following suggestions.
- Whether it was building the walls or listening to the holy book, all ages were involved together and respected each other. Perhaps we could make an effort to include people of all ages in our celebrations?
- The people in the story really enjoyed eating and drinking together. Could we make a special effort to eat together as a family whenever we can? Maybe we could take time to think about the happiness that can be found when we eat together in the school community.
- Worshipping God was an all-ages family occasion in the story. Is there anything happening at a nearby church that your family might enjoy doing together? (If appropriate, you could mention a particular event.)
Ask the children, ‘Are there ways in which we could involve different ages from the community during our times of worship or celebration?’
You may wish to listen to the children’s ideas about this.
Show Slide 4.
Encourage the children to sit quietly for a short time and think about the communities that they are part of.
Thank you for the story and example of Ezra and Nehemiah.
Please help us to make the communities in which we live inclusive to everybody.
Help us to learn to celebrate together.
Help us to embrace differences.
Help us to love one another.
Help us to care.
‘Superglue’ by Judy Mackenzie-Dunn (Kids Praise Party, Vol. 1 by Spring Harvest, 2006). The lyrics are available at: https://www.elevationkids.com/song/superglue