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Below is a ready-made plan and script for a whole-day school retreat with the theme of friends.

Feel free to adapt it to suit your school and age group.

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This site was formerly known as
'School Assemblies for Busy Teachers'.

Assembly Title
Friends - a retreat

Submitted by
S. Daly

Age Group

To think about our friends, what they do for us and how we should treat them

Faith Group

Children's Bibles, hymn books, paper, pencils, scissors, cassette player, cassettes of hymns, bread, grapes, water, cups, plates

Song and video for the interactive whiteboard

'Friends are Quiet Angels'

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Other Details
This retreat takes a whole school day. It is best done with one class at a time and in a small place of worship if possible, e.g. a local chapel or small church with a hall attached
It is mostly teacher-led, with lots of discussion and pupil-participation.
The script below is not meant to be read word-for-word, but rather used as a guide
Do all of the sections below, or choose ones to fit the time you have available
The retreat below was used with Year 5. The children had known each other for a year.

1. Watch and listen to
'Friends are Quiet Angels'

Class sit in a circle and introduce themselves with one sentence, e.g. "I am Fred; I like football."
At the end, discuss briefly - Did anyone say, "I am a Christian." or "I am (name)'s friend."?

2. Introduce today's theme (Friends) - one year in a new school - new friends made - which feeder schools did the children come from* - things we have done together this year - do we learn more together or alone e.g. in Maths, on the computer, with ball-throwing** - why - why do we display our work on classroom walls?
* At this point a 'family tree' can be drawn showing who came from which schools and how they have all joined together in this school.
** Make two lists - one of games you can play alone and one of games that need several players. Which are more fun?

3. Read this poem and discuss:
There was an old woman who lived all alone
In a neat little, trim little house of her own
She scrubbed all her floors, made her own bed,
Fed all her chickens and baked loaves of bread,
Made pots of jam, knitted nice shawls,
Thoroughly, carefully washed down her walls.
When she was finished, she often would say,
In a very decided and satisfied way,
"I did it all by myself."

All by herself? Where did the chicken-food come from? the flour for the bread? the wool for the shawls? the fruit and sugar for the jam? Who put in the pipes to carry water to her house? Who built her house?

Make a list of the people who helped her to do the jobs in the poem.

There are hundreds of things that we use every day, without thinking about who was involved in making them.
We would not be able to live or work for long without the help of others.
Early man knew this, which is why people lived in groups.
No man is an island.

God wants us to work together. His first commandment to man was to "increase and multiply and fill the whole earth" and "to have dominion over it and subdue it". Everything we do can make the world a better place for everyone, but does it?

If time, give out copies of the poem for the children to read/mime in small groups.

4. If stranded on an island, with enough food and water, what would we miss most?
Being together makes things easier, e.g. rowing a boat, walking on the moon etc. What else?

5. To live as a Christian is to live as a team, working and playing together.
Jesus called us his friends not servants.
In St. John's Gospel, it says,
One day, Jesus said, "I don't want you just to work for me and do as you're told. I want you to be my friends and be happy with me. But remember, you did not choose me; I chose you to be my friends and I want you to be friends with each other."

God also taught us how to be friends. In Isaiah (5: 8-9, 11) it says,
Don't make trouble for other people. Don't wave your fists about in the air, and don't shout at people! God will show you how to live and he will make you strong. Remember, God will always listen to you, and if you call for help, he will say, "I am with you!"

St. Mark (9: 33-35) wrote about a time when Jesus's friends had been arguing.
One day, Jesus had been out with some of his friends. and when they came back home, he said, "What were you arguing about on the road back there?"
When he asked them this, they were very quiet, because they had been fighting about who was the greatest among them.
So Jesus sat down and said, "If any of you want to be really big, you will have to take care of everyone else! Only the person who looks after other people first will be truly great."

Discuss - A friend in need is a friend indeed.

6. Explain the early Christian's fish symbol.
Persecuted Christians in Roman times used the fish symbol to identify each other. The Greek letters that make up the beginning of the words 'Jesus Christ God's Son Saviour' spell fish. Hence the symbol and our word ICHTHUS. In the Bible, the fish stands for God's bounty, "the abundance of the seas". We should share God's goodness to us with others.

Begin to make a concertina book, by folding a sheet of A4 paper in half.
Page 1 = My name is (name). I am a Christian.
Page 2 = Meaning of the fish symbol.
Page 3 = Alleluia, alleluia. I want you to be my friends and be happy with me. Alleluia.
Page 4 = We do not live for ourselves alone, but everything we do helps or hinders the other members of God's family.

Other pages can be added by drawing or downloading pictures that explain the Bible readings already mentioned.

Make a badge with the fish symbol on it. Wear it.

While working, play tapes of children's lively hymns or Taize music.

7. Read the story of The Soldier's Servant (Matthew 8: 5-13).
One day a Roman soldier approached him.
"Sir, my servant is paralysed and in terrible pain, " he said.
"I'll come and heal him," replied Jesus.
But the soldier said, "Just give the order, and my servant will recover. It is not important enough for you to travel to my house. Your order will cure him."
Jesus was astonished at the man's great faith, and he said to the Roman soldier, "Go home and everything will be as you believe."
And the servant was healed immediately.

There is a worksheet to accompany the above story on p.30 of 'Instant Art for Bible Worksheets Book 1' from Palm Tree Press, with the theme of friends.

8. When children finish, they can look through their Bibles to find the stories and quotes mentioned so far. They may also be able to find more Bible stories about friends.

9. Children compose a prayer on the theme of friends. They could do this in the form of an acrostic, i.e. write the word FRIENDS downwards. The first line of the prayer should start with the letter F, the second with R etc.
Or they could write the name of a real friend and use those letters to start each line.

10. Prepare an agape (love feast). Early Christians met together to share a meal to remember Jesus.
Use bread, grapes and water.
Divide the class into four groups. Each group has a leader (Jesus, priest), and two helpers (apostles, altar servers).
Each group acts out the Last Supper.
They also write a prayer to contribute at the end.
Alternatively, use some of these prayers and a hymn chosen by the class, when the four groups come back together.

a) God our Father, you are the special friend of little children. You said to your friends, "Don't stop the children from coming to me. Bring them back."
Put your arms around us now and bless us as we pray.
1. Bless our fathers and mothers.
Help them to be real friends together.

2. Bless all of us, your children, as we work, play and pray together.
Help us to be real friends together.

3. Bless the children who are lonely, forgotten and without friends.
Help us to be real friends together.

4. Bless the children who are unhappy because they have no friends.
Help us to be real friends together.

b) Response: Thank you, God, for friends.
1) For friends who talk to me,
And for friends who share with me,

2) For friends who play with me,
And for friends who help me,

3) For friends who comfort me,
And for friends who cheer me up when I'm sad,

4) For friends who are kind to me,
And for friends who tell me the truth about myself,

5) For friends who understand me,
And for friends who make me happy,

Watch and listen to 'Friends are Quiet Angels'

11. Silence, to allow time for children to reflect.

12. Give the children a holy card, with a relevant message, as a souvenir of the retreat. These can be bought in Church repositories.

S. Daly 2000

Last updated 14-10-14.