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The First Book . . .

Julian of Norwich

by Ronni Lamont (revised, originally published in 2008)

Suitable for Key Stage 2

Aims

To consider the life of Julian of Norwich, the author of the first book to be written in English by a woman.

Preparation and materials

  • Have available an image of a hazelnut and the means to display it during the assembly. An example is available at: https://tinyurl.com/y2kujjpe

  • Optional: you might like to dress one of the children in the style of poor fourteenth-century clothes, to act the part of Julian of Norwich. Alternatively, the leader can pretend to be Julian.

  • In the Church calendar, Julian is remembered each year on 8 or 13 May.

Assembly

  1. Child/Leader pretending to be Julian: My name is Julian. I live near the city of Norwich. I live alone in a tiny room called a cell, which is built against the outside wall of a church. I never leave my room. I have a friend who brings me food and drink every day.

    I have been very ill. For weeks, I lay in bed, halfway between life and death, but today, I am feeling better.

    In the year of our Lord 1373, in the month of May, I was so ill that those around me thought that I was on the point of death. On the eighth of that month, between 4 o’clock and 9 o’clock in the morning, I had a series of dreams, the most amazing dreams you could ever imagine.

  2. Leader: The dreams certainly were amazing!

    Ask the children if they have ever had any amazing dreams.

    Listen to a range of responses.

  3. Ask the children if they can guess what Julian dreamed about.

    Listen to a range of responses.

  4. Explain that Julian dreamed about the love of God. God spoke to her so vividly that when she woke up, she said . . .

    Child/Leader pretending to be Julian: I need to write all this down!

  5. However, there was a problem. Ask the children what they think Julian’s problem might have been.

    Listen to a range of responses.

  6. Explain that the problem was that Julian didn’t know how to write. What was she to do? It may seem strange to us to imagine an adult who couldn’t write, but in those days, it was pretty normal. Only people from rich homes could write, and very few of those were women. Julian came from a poor home and was a woman, too, so of course she couldn’t write!

    Ask the children what they think Julian did next.

    Listen to a range of responses.

  7. Julian, being the person that she was, wasn’t going to let a small thing like not being able to write stop her. She decided to learn to write. Its thought that the priest at the church taught her.

    When Julian had learnt to write, she began to write down the dreams that shed had and their meaning. It took her years. Of course, there were no such things as computers back then, not even typewriters, which came before computers. There were no such things as pens either, just a quill feather and ink. What a messy job it was!

    However, 20 years later – yes, 20 years – Julian finished. She had written the very first book in the English language to be written by a woman. Her book is still available today, and it’s called Revelations of Divine Love.

  8. The book was just how Julian wanted it to be. The book was simply about how much God loves us.

Time for reflection

There are two quite well-known thoughts in Julians book. The first one is this.

Show the image of a hazelnut.

Julian saw God’s hand, closed up like this (close your fingers as if they were closed over a hazelnut). When God opened his hand (open your hand), Julian saw a tiny nut. When she asked what the nut was, God replied, ‘It is everything that is made.’

Everything in the universe fitted into God’s hand, and was about the size of this nut.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Everything that had ever been made, all equal to the size of a nut in God’s hand.

Ask the children what they think this means.

Listen to a range of responses.

The second thought in Julians book is this.

Julian was worried about the things going on in her world: there was a war, there was plague and England was in a mess. Everything was terrible. When she spoke to God about it, God replied to her, ‘All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.’

All shall be well.

Ask the children what they think this means.

Listen to a range of responses.

Julian believed that God holds the world in his hands and that people didn’t need to worry because they could trust God.

Prayer
Dear God,
Thank you that you have promised that all will be well.
When life is hard, help us to remember that promise.
Amen.

Song/music

‘Give me oil in my lamp’ (Come and Praise, 43)
‘Jesus’ love is very wonderful’ (Hymns Old and New (Kevin Mayhew), 393, 2008 edition)

Publication date: May 2019   (Vol.21 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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