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Open the Door

Courage to face the future

by Brian Radcliffe (revised, originally published in 2012)

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To encourage us to face the challenge of new opportunities.

Preparation and materials

You will need a leader and three readers.


Leader: Howard Carter was an archaeologist. Employed by a British peer, Lord Carnarvon, he worked in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt during the early years of the twentieth century. He was searching for the undiscovered tomb of a pharaoh rumoured to be buried within that area.

On 16 February 1923, Carter stood before a sealed doorway that led to . . . well, he didn’t really know for sure! As he stood there holding his hammer and chisel, many thoughts would have passed through his mind.

Reader 1: First, there was the relief that he could finally make the breakthrough. He had begun work in the area in 1914, but the events of the First World War meant that he had been forced to abandon work until 1917. External factors had got in his way. However, his own choices had also delayed the opening of the door. In order to properly catalogue the objects found in the antechamber (the entrance to the tomb) - which he had discovered the previous November - he had taken the decision to postpone going further. It was undoubtedly a professional way to act, but it must have given rise to feelings of frustration.

Reader 2: Second, there was the curse. Rumours were rife in Egypt that anyone who broke into the sealed tomb of a pharaoh in order to take the precious objects stored there would suffer a terrible death. These rumours had existed among Arab peoples for centuries. Was the curse true? Howard Carter had no means of knowing what the consequences might be when he broke the seals on the door.

Reader 3: However, to encourage him, there was the glimpse he’d had of what lay behind the door. The previous November, he’d made a small breach in the upper-left corner of the door and, by the light of a candle, he’d had a glimpse inside. When asked what he could see, he had replied, ‘Wonderful things.’

Leader: There are times when I’ve felt as if I were standing before a door that I could choose to open or not. I don’t mean a physical door. I’m referring to a door of opportunity. It might be the chance to do something new, a challenge to set myself, a relationship to embark on or an intriguing possibility to explore.

Optional: you may wish to give a personal example that can be expanded to illustrate the following points.

Any one of us, when faced with a doorway of opportunity, is likely to find our minds filled with a set of conflicting thoughts and emotions.

Reader 1: We might be conscious of the practical implications of taking the opportunity. How will we get there? What will it cost? Do we have the time?

Reader 2: We will certainly feel the pressure that this might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If we don’t do it now, the chance might never come again.

Reader 3: Then there’s the risk. What if it all goes wrong? Might we regret what we’ve done?

Reader 1: If we’re fortunate, we will also have had some encouragement. We may have talked to others who have taken a similar opportunity. We may have carefully researched the details or gone on a taster session. But still the dilemma remains – do we open the door or not?

Reader 2: Howard Carter opened the door and was faced with the most extravagant burial chamber ever discovered. It was the burial chamber of the young pharaoh, Tutankhamun. The sarcophagus and its surrounding gold and ebony treasures really were ‘wonderful things’. It had been worth the wait and the uncertainty.

Leader: For all of us, there have been unexpected challenges to face during 2020. We have all needed courage to face many things. Now we have before us doors of opportunity in school that are totally unexpected! Things are different; things feel strange. Some of us will feel sad, frightened, anxious . . . others may see these changes as exciting and even an adventure to tackle. However we are feeling, it’s important to remember that our feelings are OK and that we can move forward together.

Time for reflection

Leader: What are the opportunities that we are facing at this moment?

Listen to a range of responses.

How do we feel about the changes in school?

Listen to a range of responses.

What are we afraid of?

Listen to a range of responses.

What can we do to help each other?

Listen to a range of responses.

Let’s reflect on some pieces of advice from Howard Carter’s approach.

First, he took a peep at what might be there. So, following his lead, rather than going blind into something new, let’s find out a little about it.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Second, he wasn’t alone. He had a team of archaeologists to support him, people he could trust and whose advice he valued. Like Carter, we don’t go alone into any changes in school. We go forward together.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Last of all, if we make mistakes or get things wrong, we can always try other things and new solutions.

You may wish to use the following prayer.

Dear Lord,
Thank you that our lives are full of opportunities.
You know all the difficulties of the past few months.
Thank you that we can face them with family, friends and school to call on for help.
Please help us to be courageous as we move forward.


‘We’re all in this together’ from the film High School Musical, available at: (4.07 minutes long)

‘The climb’ by Miley Cyrus, available at: (3.59 minutes long)

Publication date: September 2020   (Vol.22 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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