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Celebrate and Remember

Festivals as a focus for community life

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5

Aims

To encourage us to consider why it’s important to gather as a community.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and three readers.

  • Optional: you may wish to research local festivals.

Assembly

Leader: August is the month for festivals.

Reader 1: There are the big music festivals such as Leeds, Reading and Bestival, headed by Kendrick Lamar, Kings of Leon, Grace Jones and Chaka Khan. They’re expensive, but you know that the quality will be high.

Reader 2: There are festivals for everybody’s taste, from Fairport’s folky Cropredy Convention to Derry’s Jika Jika! festival and the Tabanca Caribbean Festival in Cleethorpes. A world at your fingertips.

Reader 3: Scotland is particularly well represented, with Midstock in Edinburgh, Groove Loch Ness, Fife Fest and the Deeside Music Festival in Aberdeen. You get the scenery as well as the music.

Leader: Jesus was big on festivals. Which one do you think he’d choose from those mentioned already? I don’t know what his taste in music was, but I’m sure he’d show his face. The Bible tells us of Jesus’ involvement with many of the festivals that were not only current at his time, but are also celebrated today within the Jewish community. These include Passover, Pentecost, the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles. From the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, Christians have created a further set of festivals, many of which are shared by believers and non-believers alike. These include Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and an expanded version of Pentecost.

Reader 1: So, what are festivals for? I think festivals are simply occasions to bring people together, preferably in the sunshine. Festivals are for meeting old friends, making new friends and discovering the exciting variety of people in the community. There is something uplifting and hopeful about being part of a large group of people who are enjoying themselves together. Size really does matter when it comes to having a good time.

Reader 2: I think festivals are times to forget the chaos and problems of everyday life for a while. Whatever yesterday dealt us, whatever tomorrow threatens, here and now we’re enjoying ourselves. For some, it may be merely a hideaway for a brief time, but for others, it can genuinely turn pessimism into optimism. The festival atmosphere can be transformational. We leave with the courage to take on whatever life may throw at us, to persevere, seeing the possibility of light at the end of the tunnel. It’s as if a festival lifts us to our feet, points us in the right direction and gives us a push to get started.

Reader 3: I think that most importantly, festivals are occasions to remember. For Jesus, the festivals that he shared in were like a map giving an overview of God’s plan for humanity and his creation. They told of the stories of the past, such as the freeing of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, of wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, of victory after victory against the odds.

The festivals that Jesus shared in were intended to encourage faith, to remind the Jewish people of their roots and values. This is similar for Christians, who place Easter at the centre of the Christian year, remembering the death and resurrection of Jesus. Christians believe that, because of the events of the first Easter, the world is a different place and we can all share in some of that experience.

Time for reflection

Leader: Most religions have special celebrations and festivals. Many of us may already participate in festivals that are linked to our own faith or community. These celebrations and festivals are rich in traditions and history. They give us a sense of our heritage and can lift us up and support us in difficult times. They are occasions to enjoy and participate in.

Optional: If available, you may wish to give examples of local festivals.

So, let’s remind ourselves of why we should participate in such events.

First, it’s good to get together to enjoy ourselves, to be part of a big party that involves various age groups and types of people.

Second, it’s a chance to forget, however briefly, whatever might be bothering us in life and in relationships. We may even end up feeling a lot better for the experience.

Third, and most important, it’s a chance to touch base with what’s important around us. It enables us to get back to our roots and revel in the culture that is ours and that holds our family and community together. We can remember what’s good about the values that we hold, the relationships that we’ve nurtured and the good times that we’ve shared.

Prayer
Dear God,
Thank you for opportunities to celebrate and remember.
Help us to get involved, share with others and enjoy one another’s company.
May our community, and we ourselves, be stronger for our participation.
Amen.

Song/music

‘Celebration’ by Kool & the Gang

Publication date: August 2018   (Vol.20 No.8)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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