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Holding Hope

Where does our hope come from?

by Claire Law

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider the meaning of the word ‘hope’.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (Holding Hope) and the means to display them. 
  • Optional: you may wish to have available the YouTube video ‘Jesus heals paralysed man’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 1.51 minutes long and is available at:


  1. Have Slide 1 showing as the students enter.

    I wonder who here has ever handed in their homework late. In fact, does anyone here have a reputation for always being late with homework?

    Encourage the students to raise their hand as needed!

    Is there anyone here whose teachers have given up hope that they will hand in their homework on time?

  2. Today, we are going to hear about something that arrived really late.

    Show Slide 2.

    Back in 2021, a man living in a flat in south London received this letter. He didn’t recognize the handwriting, and the stamp on the letter looked unusual. The postmark, which we can see in the upper-left corner, is ‘6 Feb 16’. However, the date doesn’t refer to 2016; this letter was posted in 1916. In other words, it took Royal Mail over 100 years to deliver the letter! It was posted two years into the First World War, during the reign of King George V.

  3. Show Slide 3.

    Here, we see Finlay Glen, the man who received the letter. Although it wasn’t addressed to him, he said that he felt that it was ‘fair game’ to open it after he realized that it dated from 1916, not 2016.

  4. Show Slide 4.

    And here is the letter itself. It was written to Katie Marsh, the wife of a wealthy local businessman, from her friend, Christabel.

    The letter seems to indicate some relationship challenges for Christabel, who writes, ‘I am quite ashamed of myself after saying what I did.’ We can only wonder what she is referring to. But it’s clear that Christabel has, to use the modern phrase, ‘feels’ going on! This letter is one friend sharing her feelings with another friend - the 1916 version of WhatsApp, perhaps!

  5. I wonder whether Christabel ever discovered that the letter hadn’t reached her friend. When Royal Mail was asked why the letter had taken so long to be delivered, a spokesperson said, ‘We are uncertain what happened in this instance.’ However, the letter did get there in the end.

  6. There are probably several of us who have handed in our homework late at various times (and staff members may remember similar experiences during their own time at school!). We probably thought, ‘I’ll give it in eventually.’ We shouldn’t give up hope!

  7. We use the word ‘hope’ a lot in everyday conversation. For example:

    - I hope the bus is on time
    - I hope it’s going to be sunny today
    - I hope I can win the race
    - I hope they’re serving pizza for lunch

    In all of these examples, the word ‘hope’ is indicating a desire. We want something to happen.

  8. We also talk about ‘having hope in’ people or things when we are expressing a sense of belief, when we are confident of a certain outcome. It’s this definition that we are going to focus on today. Perhaps we’ve heard people say that they have hope in us that we will pass an exam, stick at something challenging, score a goal in the match or pass an audition.

    In other words, these people are saying that they have faith in us, and believe that we can do it.

    The hope that others have in us can feel very encouraging, especially if we don’t feel so hopeful ourselves at that point. We may find it hard to believe in our abilities. Perhaps we feel stuck, or overwhelmed with doubt or lacking confidence. Having others communicate their hope in us makes a difference. They may hold the hope for us that we can’t feel for ourselves.

  9. The Bible contains many stories of hope and hopefulness.

    Show Slide 5.

    For example, the Old Testament includes the story of Abraham, who trusted that God would keep his promise to give Abraham a descendant. Abraham prayed for many years that his wife, Sarah, would conceive and have a baby. Even when things looked hopeless, Abraham trusted God. After many years, and much hope, Sarah had a baby boy - Isaac.

    Just as Royal Mail eventually delivered the letter that was sent in 1916, God eventually honoured Abraham’s hope and trust.

  10. Show Slide 6.

    In the New Testament, there is a story about Jesus healing a paralysed man. It’s a fascinating passage that involves a bit of light demolition work!

    Jesus is preaching at a house in Capernaum and has attracted a large crowd. A group of men are hopeful that Jesus might be able to help their paralysed friend. However, it’s hard for them to get their friend to Jesus because the house is packed with people. So, the friends use their initiative and make a hole in the roof. They carefully lower their friend through the hole so that he ends up next to Jesus. They hope that Jesus can help their friend, yet the man himself feels hopeless, bound up in shame and guilt. Jesus recognizes this and says, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’

    Jesus ends up healing the man’s paralysis, giving him a new lease of life. So, the friends’ hope that things could be different for their friend was life-changing. Their hope was enough to make a difference.

    Optional: to get a sense of the paralysed man’s hopelessness and his friends’ hope, you may wish to show the YouTube video ‘Jesus heals paralysed man’ (1.51 minutes long).

Time for reflection

Ask the students, ‘Can you think of people in your life who have shown that they have hope in you, even when you weren’t confident or sure in yourself?’

Pause to allow time for thought.

Often, it is parents, grandparents and carers who have hope in us. We probably don’t remember our transition from crawling to walking, yet it is likely that they were there, encouraging us. They would have been hopeful that we could take that first wobbly step, and hopeful that, when we did fall down, we would get up and try again. They would have used their words and their body language to communicate that they had every hope that we could do it and that they believed in us. As we grow and develop, having people around us to encourage us is very important.

Let’s take a moment to think of the people in our family who have had hope in us, even when we’ve struggled to believe in ourselves.

Pause to allow time for thought.

In the story that we heard earlier, the friends of the paralysed man were determined to seek help for him from Jesus. In the same way, friends can be critical for holding hope in us: they can encourage us and remind us of our strengths. A true friend can recognize that although we have flaws, make mistakes and say and do things that we may regret, we are still someone who has much to give the world.

When Christabel wrote her letter to her friend Katie, she shared her sense of regret about saying something that she wished she hadn’t. She was hopeful that Katie would still be her friend despite this.

Which friends in your life hold hope in you? Which friends believe in you?

Let’s take a moment to think of friends who have had hope in us, even when we’ve struggled to believe in ourselves.

Pause to allow time for thought.

We must also consider the ways in which we hold hope for others: family members, friends, sports coaches and teachers. We can be someone who holds hope for others, reminding them that hope is not lost.

Let's take a moment to think of people whom we hold hope for: people we believe in, even when they struggle to believe in themselves.

Pause to allow time for thought.

Dear Lord,
We pray that we find a sense of hopefulness today.
Help us to find people, places and spaces where we can trust in the future.
Help us to find ways to express our belief and hope in others.
Help us also to experience the hope that others have in us.
We ask you to help us have hope, even when things seem difficult.
Above all, help us to trust in you and your love for us.

Publication date: August 2023   (Vol.25 No.8)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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