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Backwards and Forwards

Looking backwards and forwards will help us in our lives

by Helen Levesley (revised, originally published in 2009)

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To identify the positive things we can find in both the past and the future.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need an image of the ancient Roman god, Janus, and the means to display this during the assembly, available at:


  1. Show the image of the ancient Roman god, Janus.

    Ask the students what they see in this picture. Do they see the faces of two people? Can they see that one is looking forwards and one is looking backwards?

    Explain that this is the Roman god, Janus. He was the god of beginnings and endings, and his image appeared on places like gates, doors and doorways.

  2. ‘Beginnings and endings’ is the theme for our assembly today. We have just begun a new school year. Beginning something new can make us reflect on what has passed.

  3. First, let’s think about endings. Whether it is the ending of a great film that you really enjoyed, the end of a cup of tea or even the end of someone’s life, these are things that we can all relate to. Think about the feelings associated with endings: sadness, disappointment and a sense of deflation.

    However, endings can be a good thing, too. The end of an exam or the end of a boring lesson are usually good things, and for some people, death can mean the end of a long, painful illness. Endings are times where we feel that something has changed, and probably will not be the same again. But looking back over what has passed also gives us some sense of evaluation.

  4. Look back over the school year that has just gone. How was it for you? Was it a good year full of fulfilled promise and excitement, or was it a really difficult year that had many challenges? I guess for most of us, there was a mixture of good and bad.

    The start of a new school year is an excellent chance for us to look back over the year that has just gone. What could we have done better? How could things have been changed? What could we have done to make things different?

    We know that we cannot remain in the past – people and things that do that never move on, and are left behind.

  5. Instead, let us look now to the future, like our double-headed god, Janus, whose name, incidentally, is the reason that the month at the start of the year is named January. January can be a time for looking backwards, and also for looking forwards, just as the start of an academic year is a time for looking backwards and forwards. For we are now standing on the threshold of a new and exciting school year.

    Look ahead to all the possibilities and opportunities that this year has in store. For some of you, your GCSEs and going to college; for others, trips abroad, sporting events, family events, school trips, amazing lessons . . . there are so many possibilities.

    We hold this year in the palm of our hands. We have in our control the things that often cause us regret when we look back - the way we did or did not behave, or how we are with others. Maybe in a years time, we could look back on this year as our best year ever! I really hope for us all that it is.

Time for reflection

Dear God,
When I look back, allow me to see the positive in my actions rather than to be sad at what I have left undone.
Let me be able to see where I could have done better, but also to look back and reflect on what brought me to that place.
As I look forward, allow me to be positive, to see that the new school year is all before me, and that what I do makes a difference.
Whether it is looking forwards to the future or back to the past, give me the strength to go on.


‘One more step’ (Come and Praise, 47)

Publication date: September 2016   (Vol.18 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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