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Christian symbols, part 3: the anchor

To show the children the meaning of one of the symbols of Christianity the anchor.

by Rebecca Parkinson

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To show the children the meaning of one of the symbols of Christianity – the anchor.

Preparation and materials


  1. Remind the children that you are following a series of assemblies looking at symbols of Christianity. Remind them of the cross and the fish and explain that today you are going to tell them 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 his 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 as well.

    At first they sail along, gently bobbing up and down in the water. But then 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. What could they do? The children will probably suggest shouting for help, jumping in, etc. Hopefully someone will give you the answer: Drop the anchor.
  4. Show the children the picture of the 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 for three main reasons:

    (a) There is an obvious connection with the trade of fishing that was so widespread and important at the time of Jesus.

    (b) The anchor held the ship/boat in place and kept it safe in the 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).

    (c) When Christianity began to spread, in many places the authorities were not happy and Christians had to keep their beliefs secret. As discussed in the first assembly in this series, the symbol of the cross was highly valued by the Christians. They didn’t want to stop using it. But 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 it still had the cross contained within it.
  5. If your school has a crest or shield or symbol, have it available for the children to see. Ask them why the symbols on this 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, so we too have symbols in school that remind us of the values of the school and our responsibility to others.

Time for reflection


Close your eyes and think about our school crest/sign/shield. What is it going to remind you to do the next time you see it?


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.



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

Publication date: February 2009   (Vol.11 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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