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Leave It Better than You Found It

An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider our personal impact on the environment.

Preparation and materials

  • Gather images of:

    – a beautiful scene from nature

    – a happy, well-fed human being

    – a technological development

    – need and deprivation

    – an industrial wasteland

    – the effects of pollution

    and have the means to display them during the assembly.
  • Decide whether to read out part of Psalm 104 or ‘God’s grandeur’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins.
  • Prepare five large pieces of card, each with one of the following words written in large letters and clearly so that all will be able to see them during the assembly. The words are: 'all', 'have', 'a', 'part', 'to', 'play'. Arrange for six students to hold the cards up during the assembly. Have them all sit together at the front, with the cards with the words in the above order, then, at the appropriate moment, they should stand one by one and turn to the audience to each reveal their word.
  • Collect some examples of good and bad aspects of life and the world from newspapers or current affairs programmes.


1. We find ourselves on a wonderfully exciting planet that we have not helped to create, it’s just there for us. During our lifetimes we will enjoy it and use its resources. We will find that, at times, it is unfriendly to us, disease or deprivation and physical or emotional hurt come our way or the ways of others who share it with us are not our ways.

2. Show the first and second images listed in the ‘Preparation and materials’ section, then read out your chosen part of Psalm 104 or ‘God’s grandeur’.

3. Show the third image listed in the ‘Preparation and materials’ section.

In almost all respects, however, the world is a better place to live in now than it was in the past. This is because of medical, technological and educational advances that have been made. Today, a greater proportion of the world's population is healthier, better fed, better educated, more aware of others and their needs and more compassionate than has been the case in the past.

This has largely been brought about by improved communications and technological developments. It does not, though, make us better than previous generations – we are simply more fortunate. Being more fortunate also gives us greater responsibility. We cannot be complacent because there is still so much to be done – as any news broadcast or newspaper will show.

Give some current examples and show the fourth, fifth and sixth images listed in the ‘Preparation and materials’ section.

We also have to look after the planet because, as we see in Genesis 2.15 (NRSV):

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and to keep it.

4. Christians believe that they share with God in the work of creation. In the account of the creation of the world at the beginning of the Bible in the book of Genesis, God begins his work and then rests on the seventh day.

Importantly, the humans of his creation alter places in the garden to develop and preserve it. This means that we all have a part to play. Throughout history, men and women have taken this very seriously. Every achievement of the human race for good – in art, music, culture, science, technology, medicine, politics and in so many more areas – can be seen as a development of God's first act of creation. He has given us a rich resource: this planet and its people.

5. We inhabit this planet for a comparatively short time. During that time:

– it is our right and privilege to enjoy it

– it is our duty and responsibility to improve it for others, both now and in the future

– each one of us can make a difference by overcoming a current problem or developing and expanding something that is already good, which could be something quite small, such as a concern for the environment, recycling of used materials, not causing litter or pollution, 'blowing the whistle' on vandals and vandalism, or it could be a larger concern, such as joining Amnesty International to work for the release of political prisoners and the implementation of human rights.

Mention any local examples of such work here. Signal to your helpers to raise their cards and then give the signal for them to turn round after the next sentence.

One thing is for sure:

give the signal, the helpers then turning one by one to face the audience, holding the cards up so the message reads as follows:

all have a part to play.

Time for reflection


We are grateful for the world that you have given us and for the skill and inspiration of those men and women who have developed it.
May we always be on the lookout for ways to make it even better, so that all may enjoy it to the full.

Publication date: June 2015   (Vol.17 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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