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Christian Symbols: the Anchor

Part of a series about symbols of religious significance

by Rebecca Parkinson (revised, originally published in 2008)

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)

Aims

To consider the meaning of one of the symbols of Christianity – the anchor.

Preparation and materials

Assembly

  1. If you are using this assembly as part of the ‘Christian Symbols’ series, remind the children of the symbols you have already considered. Explain that today, we are going to find out about one of the oldest known symbols used by Christians.

  2. Ask the children if they have ever been in a boat. Ask a few of them to tell you about their experiences.

    Remind the children that the trade of fishing was very important in the time of Jesus and that many of Jesus’ followers were fishermen or the family of fishermen.

  3. Ask the children to close their eyes and imagine that they are in a boat. You could ask them to do the actions, too.

    At first, they are sailing along, gently bobbing up and down in the water. Suddenly, the wind begins to blow more strongly and the waves grow bigger. They frantically row for the shore to save themselves from being blown off course – or worse, smashed on the rocks.

    The wind is too strong for them. Ask the children what they can do. Suggestions may include shouting for help or jumping in, but hopefully, someone will give you the answer you’re seeking: drop the anchor.

  4. Show the image of an anchor.

    Explain that when the tombs (catacombs) of early Christians were first discovered in Rome, historians were interested to find that in many of them, an anchor image had been drawn on the walls or engraved in the rocks. The anchor had become a very early symbol of Christianity.

    It is believed that the anchor was used as a Christian symbol for three main reasons.

    - There is an obvious connection with the trade of fishing that was so widespread and important at the time of Jesus.
    - An anchor holds a ship or boat in place and keeps it safe during storms. In the same way, the early Christians believed that Jesus was like an anchor that kept them safe when they went through difficult times. A verse in the Bible says, ‘We have an anchor that keeps us safe and secure.’ (Hebrews 6.19)
    - When Christianity began to spread, there were many places where the authorities were not happy and Christians had to keep their beliefs secret. Another assembly in this series discusses how much Christians valued the symbol of the cross. They didn’t want to stop using it. However, they realized that by adding two extra lines at an angle to the bottom of a simple cross, you formed an anchor. The Christians thought that the anchor symbol would not be suspicious to the authorities, but still contained the symbol of the cross.

  5. If your school has a crest, shield or symbol, have it available for the children to see. Ask them why the symbols on the crest are important. What does the crest remind us of? In the same way as Christians use symbols to remind them of their faith in Jesus, we, too, have symbols in school that remind us of our school values and our responsibility to others.

Time for reflection

Encourage the children to close their eyes and think about the school crest, shield or symbol. Ask them to consider what it will remind them to do the next time they see it.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Ask the children what the school crest, shield or symbol might encourage them to do today.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Prayer
Dear God,
The early Christians used symbols to remind themselves of you.
Please help us not to forget you
And to remember to care for those around us.
Amen.

Song/music

‘Go, tell it on the mountain’ (Come and Praise, 24)

Publication date: June 2019   (Vol.21 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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