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Voices Echo Down the Years

An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider the importance of learning lessons from the past.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need one leader and three readers. The readers will need time to practise the poems prior to the assembly.

  • You will also need the following poems:

    - ‘Sportsmen in Paradise by T. P. Cameron Wilson, available at:
    - ‘Reconciliation by Siegfried Sassoon, available at:
    - ‘The Bright Field by R. S. Thomas, available at:

  • Optional: you may also wish to use the hymn ‘Jerusalem’ by William Blake at the end of the assembly, in which case you will also need the means to play it. It is available at: and is 2.51 minutes long.


Leader: We all learn in different ways. We all express ourselves in different ways. Some people express the way they are feeling with words, actions, music and dance. Some people find it easier to express themselves in poetry. Today, we are going to listen to voices from the past that hand on to us a warning about the world in which we live. There are three poems. The first two date from the First World War and the last was written in the second half of the last century. So we are using the voices of the past to bring us into the present and onward into the future.

Reader 1: The first poem was written by a soldier during the First World War. It is about a yearning to be back home in England. The writer believes that heaven is home and on his death, this is where he will go.

Reader 2: Read ‘Sportsmen in Paradise’ by T. P. Cameron Wilson, available at:

Reader 3: The next poem was also written during the First World War, but invites readers to listen to the voices of their enemies. It asks them to think of the families on the other side who suffered, too, and to forgive.

Reader 1: Read ‘Reconciliation’ by Siegfried Sassoon, available at:

Reader 2: R. S. Thomas was a poet and Anglican priest who died in 2000. His poem ‘The Bright Field’ leads us to think about the present. Thomas wants us to enjoy every moment, wringing everything out of our lives that we can. His voice is the voice of the prophet: put away darkness, turn aside into the bright field, live dangerously and, like Moses when he was called by God to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, have the courage to respond to the opportunities that life offers.

Reader 3: Read ‘The Bright Field’ by R. S. Thomas, available at:

Time for reflection

Leader: Let us think in silence of those who have offered us their wisdom. Let us think about the bright fields that lie ahead and the chances we have to build on the experiences of those who have gone before us. Let’s decide to be people of forgiveness who seek to bring peace.

Dear God,
Please help us to listen to the voices of the past that have so much to teach us.
Help us to seek to bring peace to those around us.
Help us to seek to bring peace to the world.
Please give us the patience and skills we need to share the anxieties of others so that we can help to bring peace to them.


‘Jerusalem’ by William Blake, available at: It is 2.51 minutes long.

Publication date: March 2017   (Vol.19 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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