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Speaking - and What is 'Heard'

An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel Archive

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To look at how there is often a mismatch between what we say we believe in and what we do. 

Preparation and materials

  • At the beginning of the assembly, Spoonerisms are introduced, which were named after a man who was noted for them, the Reverend William Spooner. Think of some examples from your own experience, including any involving people you or both you and the students know, to talk about in the 'Assembly', Step 2.
  • As an example of thinking about what is important and doing the right thing for people globally, the assembly mentions the eight Millennium Development Goals set in 1990 by the United Nations (at:, to be achieved by 2015. Also, that at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015, a new sustainable development agenda was adopted and a new global agreement on climate change. The actions taken in 2015 are expected to result in new sustainable development goals (at: that build on the eight Millennium Development Goals. Familiarize yourself with the goals listed and perhaps plan to undertake more discussion and work on this area  after the assembly. You might also like to have the means to display the lists of goals during the assembly.
  • You might like to choose some reflective music and have the means to play it during the 'Time for refleciton' part of the assembly. Alternatively, you could organize for some brave volunteers to share (briefly) an example of what they think is important in life and what things they are doing in order to achieve it. Do encourage the volunteers to be honest about the difficulties of making a commitment, dealing with distractions and times when we fail.


  1. There is a story about the Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930), who was famous for unintentionally muddling up his words and actions. It is said that once, when he was leaving on a train journey, he gave his wife a tip and kissed the porter goodbye.

    Other examples include the following rebuke, which he is supposed to have made to an undergraduate he was teaching at Oxford University. 

    You have tasted your worm,
    you have hissed my mystery lectures
    and you must leave by the first town drain.

    Suchs slips are thus called spoonerisms - that is, there is a difference between what we intend to say and what we actually say. 

  2. Give the examples from your own experience that you noted in preparation. 

  3. Sometimes we laugh about these kinds of stories, but sometimes words not quite matching up to what is happening can be not funny at all. It can be a painful experience. For example, when a promise has been made  . . .  and then it is not kept. The feelings of hurt and disappointment can go very deep and scar people for the rest of their lives. 

  4. In the Christian story, one of the most powerful events involves Peter, Jesus' disciple. Here was a man who claimed to be a follower and friend, but whose actions, at a crucial moment, didn't bear this out, as we will see in the following two passages from Matthew's Gospel (26.31-35 and 69-75, NIV).

    Then Jesus told them, 
    ‘This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:

    "I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered."

    But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.' Peter replied, ‘Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.’ ‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘this very night, before the cock crows, you will disown me three times.’ But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the other disciples said the same.

    Jesus and his disciples then went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, but, later, Jesus was arrested and taken before the high priest.

    Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came to him. ‘You also were with Jesus of Galilee,’ she said. But he denied it before them all. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant-girl saw him and said to the people there, ‘This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ He denied it again, with an oath: ‘I don’t know the man!’ After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, ‘Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.’ Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know the man!’ Immediately a cock crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the cock crows, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.

  5. At a national level, we like to think we are part of a country that looks after those in need. We think that it shows we are a civilized country.

    Caring for the needs of others is seen as part of our purpose today, as well as part of our history, with its Christian traditions.

    An example of working to do the right thing by people happended in 1990 when the United Nations set out the following eight Millennium Development Goals with the aim of achieving them by 2015. 

    Display the lists, if doing so.

    - 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
    - 2: Achieve u
    niversal primary education.
    - 3: Promote gender eqality and empower women.
    - 4: Reduce child mortality.
    - 5: Improve maternal health.
    - 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
    - 7: Ensure environmental sustainability.
    - 8: Develop a global partnership for development.

    Setting targets implies a commitment to achieving them. There has been great progress, with extreme poverty globally dropping from nearly 50 per cent in 1990 to 14 per cent in 2015 and people living in extreme poverty dropping by half during this time, for example. We need, however, regularly to review how we, as a country and as part of the world, are making progress towards achieving these targets. Indeed, that is why the United Nations held its Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015, where countries had the opportunity to build on these goals and adopted a new sustainable development agenda and a new global agreement on climate changeThe actions taken in 2015 are expected to result in the adoption of the following new sustainable development goals.

    - 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere.
    - 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
    - 3: Ensure healthy lives and promte well-being for all at all ages.
    - 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.
    - 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
    - 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all.
    - 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
    - 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all.
    - 9: Build reslient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
    - 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries.
    - 11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
    - 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
    - 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
    - 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.
    - 16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies.
    - 17: Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

  6. It's very easy to criticize others for not doing what we think they should be doing. So, before dismissing the rhetoric of commitment by governments and charity work, let's pause and reflect on how far we each reflect what we say is important and what we feel people should do, in what we actually do ourselves.

Time for reflection

Play chosen reflective music to encourage the students to think about aligning what they believe in with actions to bring these about.

Alternatively, call up your volunteers to share what they think is important in life and how they are working to achieve it.

God be in my head
And in my understanding;
God be in my eyes
And in my looking;
God be in my mouth
And in my speaking;
God be in my heart
And in my thinking;
God be at my end
And at my departing.

Publication date: November 2015   (Vol.17 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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