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Second chance: Leek's double sunset (21 June)

To encourage students to persevere when they experience failure or setback (SEAL theme: Managing feelings).

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To encourage students to persevere when they experience failure or setback (SEAL theme: Managing feelings).

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and one reader.


  1. Leader Today we are going to find out about a remarkable natural event.

    Reader St Edward’s Church lies in the heart of the Staffordshire town of Leek. On the evening of 21 June, the Summer Solstice, it is normal to see a large group of people gathered in the churchyard, looking out towards the Cheshire Plain, 10 miles away.

    The edge of the Plain is marked by a substantial hill, known as Bosley Cloud. The setting Sun slides down into the upper left-hand side of the Cloud and, for a moment, everywhere becomes dim, evening creeping in on the crowd. Then a surprising event occurs. The Sun that had set moments before gradually reappears on the vertical right-hand slope of the hill. Daylight pours over the landscape for a few more minutes before a second sunset takes place into the level horizon of the Cheshire Plain.
  2. Leader Sunsets are an evocative part of human experience. A sunset represents the end of something. Before the time of electric light, it was, in practical terms, the end of the working day. The sunset has also been used by writers as a symbol of life itself, that we gradually fade into inevitable death. For us, it might be a symbol of an opportunity missed, an appointment that wasn’t kept, a wonderful experience that’s inevitably come to an end, a failure that can’t be rectified. When the Sun sets, it draws a very clear line. It’s the end . . . or is it?
  3. Leader I’d like to use the double sunset that happens in Leek to help us consider whether or not an end is always an end. I’d like us to consider the idea of a second chance. It’s a very Christian idea. Jesus never gave up on people, even when they let him down. He gave them a second chance. Jesus never accepted that a problem was insoluble. He came up with a plan B. Jesus even challenged the finality of death itself when he rose again on that first Easter morning, so why should we so easily accept that an end is final?

    Let’s start with relationships. When two married people divorce, it’s sometimes said this has happened because of an irretrievable breakdown in the relationship, but why should any relationship be termed irretrievable? It may be hard to say ‘Sorry’, to ask for forgiveness, commit to starting again, but it is possible if the desire and the willingness are there. Does that apply to any relationships in your life?

    What about failures? If someone attempting to clear a high jump fails to do so, he or she has two further attempts. Often then the jumper manages to do it. It counts as a proper clear jump whether it happens on the first or subsequent attempts. In fact, it has been said that getting it wrong is part of getting it right.

    A failure is simply part of the process of learning. We should stand up, brush ourselves down and start all over again, until we succeed. We should give ourselves a second, third, fourth chance.

    Finally, Christians believe that God’s forgiveness clears away the guilt, frustration and negativity of what we’ve done wrong. There is nothing – no mistake, no deliberately hurtful word or act – that cannot be remedied. It may not be easy, but the second chance does exist.

Time for reflection

Leader Take a look at the sunset this month. Watch it slowly set and, while you’re watching, think about what a second chance might represent for you.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for second chances, whatever form they may take.
May I, first of all, be willing to face up to failure and regret.
May I then be ready to persevere, to create a new opportunity in my life and the lives of others.


‘Never gonna give you up’, sung by Rick Astley

Publication date: June 2013   (Vol.15 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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