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The Doorway to the Year

The meaning of January

by Claire Law

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To examine the origin of the word ‘January’ and what it symbolizes.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (The Doorway to the Year) and the means to display them.

  • Have available the YouTube video ‘Revolving doors - Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgLL8H9OyFk and you should show it from the beginning until 1.16 minutes.

    Note: at 1.59 minutes, a swear word is used, so be careful not to show more of the video.

  • Optional: to create a reflective mood during the Time for Reflection part of the assembly, you may wish to play some gentle instrumental music without any visuals. An example of appropriate music is available at: https://tinyurl.com/yaawgdmk

Assembly

  1. Show Slide 1.

    Explain that you are about to show the students five images of famous doorways.

  2. Show Slide 2.

    Ask the students if they know which doorway it is, and where it can be found. Allow the students to contribute, taking a couple of responses before revealing the correct answer: it is the front door of the Prime Minister’s home at 10 Downing Street in London.

  3. Show Slide 3 and click again to show the second image on the slide.

    Ask the students if they know which doorway it is, and where it can be found. Allow the students to contribute, taking a couple of responses before revealing the correct answer: it is a doorway in the outer precincts of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, which is a sacred place of worship for Sikhs. Amritsar is in north India.

  4. Show Slide 4.

    Ask the students if they know which doorway it is, and where it can be found. Allow the students to contribute, taking a couple of responses before revealing the correct answer: it is the front door to Hogwarts! It featured in the Harry Potter films and can now be seen at the Warner Bros Studios in London.

  5. Show Slide 5 and click again to show the second image on the slide.

    Ask the students if they know which doorway it is, and where it can be found. Allow the students to contribute, taking a couple of responses before revealing the correct answer: it is the church doorway in the town of Wittenberg in Germany. This was the door to which Martin Luther nailed his list of 95 complaints against the Catholic Church in 1517. His action sparked the Protestant Reformation across Europe.

  6. Show Slide 6.

    Ask the students if they know which doorway it is, and where it can be found. Allow the students to contribute, taking a couple of responses before revealing the correct answer: it is a doorway with a portcullis at Warwick Castle, a medieval castle in England.

    Of course, when we think of castle doors, we think of moats and drawbridges. Castle doors were doors that were designed to withstand attack by battering rams and other weapons.

  7. Explain that the reason why we have been considering doorways is that we are now in the month of January, which is named after the Roman god Janus, the god of the doorway. The word Janus comes from a word meaning doorway.

    Show Slide 7.

    In this picture, we can see Janus, the god who looks both forwards and backwards. This concept of looking both forwards and backwards has similarities with a doorway, which is a place where we can go in and out. January is the doorway to a new year. We can look back over the previous year, but we can also look forward to a new year.

  8. Ask the students to consider some of the actual doorways they have faced in the past.

    A closed door can sometimes be daunting. We don’t always know what sort of a welcome will greet us on the other side. Doors can be a barrier. Some door handles can be tricky to open, and sometimes, we get confused about whether to push or pull the door open. A door may be locked; we may need another person’s help to get through it. We might have to ring the bell or knock first. Sometimes, the bell doesn’t work, and were not sure whether the person inside has heard. Perhaps weve been the person on the inside and we just don’t want to open the door to the person whom we suspect is knocking. When we face a closed door, we face a choice.

  9. Sometimes, we face doors that open and close automatically, or revolving doors. In theory, these doors are designed to make life a bit easier, but that’s not always the case. Let’s take a moment to see what Michael McIntyre has to say on the topic.

    Show the YouTube video ‘Revolving doors - Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow’ from the beginning until 1.16 minutes. Note: at 1.59 minutes, a swear word is used, so be careful not to show more of the video.

  10. There are choices that people make that help to make doorways easier for us. Some doors are propped open. Some companies and schools have ‘open-door policies’, where they deliberately leave the door open to communicate that they are happy for people to pop in. The aim is to indicate that they have nothing to hide, and to welcome visitors and feedback. A doorway can also be the entrance to somewhere fun or exciting; many of us will have experienced the excitement of passing through the doorway or turnstile into a theme park, or an event.

Time for reflection

Let’s pause to consider that our lives can be a doorway. At this point in the year, we can - like the Roman god Janus - look back over the past year, as well as look forward to the future. We can choose to spend time reflecting on the threshold of a new year. We can take time to think about our relationships with other people. We can consider how other people see us. Are we honest, caring and easy to engage with? Are people afraid to approach us? Are we welcoming to new people and new situations? Are our lives doorways that allow others into our lives or friendship groups?

Let’s take a few minutes to consider the symbolism of doorways and what it means to each of us.

Optional: you may wish to play some gentle instrumental music without any visuals.

Let us think about the image of a heavy, closed door.
A barrier.
One on which we need to knock first.
One where we feel apprehensive about what is on the other side.

What situations in life at the moment cause you to fear taking a risk and opening the door?

Pause to allow time for thought.

- How can you manage to move forward in these situations?
- What do you need to do to help you to face the fear and open the door?
- Who can help you to take that risk?

Remember that there are always people in school who are there to help.

Pause to allow time for thought.

And what about the times when we feel that we are a bit like that door ourselves? We can all sometimes be a bit of a closed, heavy door to others: slow to open up or let others learn more about who we are. Perhaps we don’t want to let others in. What is holding you back from being more open? How can you safely let others see a bit more of the real you?

Pause to allow time for thought.

Lets think about the image of a door that is propped open - an inviting door. A door with a welcome mat in front of it.

Lets think about people and situations that help us to feel at ease, where we feel welcomed and excited about moving forwards and move closer to others. What can we learn from these people and these situations? How can we be more welcoming to others?

Pause to allow time for thought.

Show Slide 8.

This is a painting called The Light of the World by William Holman Hunt. It was completed in 1853. Hunt painted Jesus standing at a door and knocking on it, but if we look closely, we can see that there is no handle on the door. The only way in which the door can be opened is if someone on the other side chooses to pull the door open and invite Jesus in.

Hunt wanted the viewer of this painting to consider themselves on the other side of the door. He wanted people to consider whether they would open the door to Jesus.

Prayer
Dear God,
Thank you for a new year with new starts and new beginnings.
Thank you for all the doorways that will be open to us this coming year.
Please give us courage to take new opportunities.
Please help us to open our lives to others.
Please help us to consider you.
Amen.

Publication date: January 2019   (Vol.21 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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