How can we make our relationships sustainable?
by Helen Redfern (revised, originally published in 2006)
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider the culture of disposability and how we sometimes view relationships in this light.
Preparation and materials
- Have available some images of rubbish and the means to display them during the assembly. Examples could include:
- a pile of plastic bottles, available at: https://tinyurl.com/yakbqfb6
- overflowing rubbish bins, available at: https://tinyurl.com/y8yohq7g
- a rubbish tip, available at: https://tinyurl.com/y7rbgke4
- Optional: you may wish to show the Archbishop of Canterbury’s New Year Message for 2008 in the ‘Assembly’, Step 6. It is 4.06 minutes long and is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6qGu4vQJFA
- Announce that this assembly is going to be all about rubbish!
Show the images of rubbish.
- Ask the students to think about their day so far. How much rubbish have they already produced? Remind them to think about all the things they have eaten and the packaging that is associated with each thing. Ask them to think about any rubbish that they might produce later in the day. Maybe they could consider how much rubbish they have produced this week.
- Ask the students whether they have ever considered where all the waste ends up. As a nation, we produce massive quantities of rubbish, and it is a huge problem. It seems that there is a culture of disposability, where nothing is made to last.
- Ask the students to consider what they have thrown away or given away just because they wanted to replace it with something new. Examples could be clothes, a mobile phone or a games console.
You may wish to ask the students to discuss this with others sitting close by.
- With more and more packaging being used for the things that we buy, our rubbish bins are often overflowing. Many of our garages are piled high with things that we no longer want. Even though more recycling is taking place, we still cannot ignore the incredible amount of waste that we need to dispose of.
- Optional: a few years ago, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, suggested that sometimes we treat people like we treat things.
Show the Archbishop of Canterbury’s New Year Message for 2008.
- Ask the students, ‘Do we discard our friendships as easily as we do our gadgets?’
We might hear people say things like:
- I won’t be your friend any more
- I don’t know what I saw in her
- I can’t be bothered with him any more
- she’s just a waste of space
- Sustainability is about building things to last. The concept can be applied to a wide range of situations, from making household appliances that last longer to setting up sustainable farming in countries where there is little food.
What about sustainability in relationships, though? Are we building friendships and relationships that will stand the test of time? Or do we give up and move on to someone new when we feel like it or when a small problem arises?
Time for reflection
Christians and those of many other faiths believe that God is faithful. He has created a sustainable world and he believes in sustainable relationships. He doesn’t regard anyone as a waste of space.
Let’s think about our own relationships. Are we treating people in a way that encourages good and lasting friendships?
Pause to allow time for thought.
Let’s make a special effort this week to treat one another in a way that builds good friendships that last.
Listen to how the psalmist expresses it in some verses in Psalm 145.
Every day, I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.
One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your power endures through all generations.
We thank you that you do not give up on anyone.
You are the perfect example of sustainability.
You built the world to last.
You build relationships to last.
Help us not to treat people as things.
Help us to take care of all that you have given us.
Help us to take care of our family and friends.
‘Great is thy faithfulness’ (Complete Mission Praise, 200, 2000 edition)
‘Forever’ (Chris Tomlin, 2001, www.worshiptogether.com)