This morning I used this assembly at our local special educational needs secondary school. Download the powerpoint here.
Ways of communication
Start the assembly by saying something like this. While you are all getting settled, I’ll just have time to phone my friend who lives in London, about 130 miles away’. Speak on the phone/to the laptop, saying something like: “Hello, Sarah, how are you? Just a quick call to remind you to remember Sam’s birthday. (Pause) You had remembered – fine! (Pause) I’m in school, just about to take an assembly. I’ll talk to you later. Bye!”
Continue by saying that if everyone can wait a little longer, you’d just like to email (or text) your friend Santiago, who lives in Chile in South America. Then tap away at the keyboard, speaking as you (pretend to) type. Hi, Santiago Hope you’re having a good week, and enjoying some sunshine. Weather here is chilly, but the summer was good. Take care and talk to you soon. SEND!
Ask the children when your friend will get the message. He might even get back to you before the assembly finishes, unless of course he’s in bed. Suggest that this type of communication, although now commonplace, is amazing. We hear about things happening all over the world within minutes of their actually taking place:
Message in a bottle
Ask the children for examples of the way people send messages today, such as text messages, email, phone, etc. Discuss ways of sending messages through the ages: messengers, post, telegrams, pigeon post.
Have the four bottles displayed on a table in view of the children. Ask if anyone has sent a message in a bottle. Discuss with the children whether they think this is a good way to send a message?
Explain that it is impossible to predict the direction a bottle will take in the sea. An experiment was carried out tracking two bottles dropped off the Brazilian coast. One drifted east for 30 days and was found on a beach in Africa; the other floated north-west for 190 days, reaching Nicaragua. (Track these on the world map if you have one.)
Explain that, fragile as it may seem, a well-sealed bottle is one of the world’s most seaworthy objects. It will bob safely through hurricanes that can sink great ships! Glass also lasts for a very long time. In 1954, 18 bottles were salvaged from a ship sunk 250 years earlier off the English coast. The liquid in them was unrecognizable but the bottles were as good as new!
Similarly last year a message in a bottle was pulled from the sea by fishermen 101 years after it was sent.
A German called Richard Platz scribbled his note to the world on May 17, 1913 – one year before the First World War, in which he died. It was a postcard from Denmark with two German stamps on it and a message asking the finder ‘to post it on to my address in Berlin’.
More than a century on, it was found by a crew from the north German port of Heikendorf, near Kiel. ‘When I saw the date I got really excited,’ said skipper Konrad Fischer.
We are going to think about what kind of message might be sent in a bottle by looking at some actual messages which have been found. Volunteers can be chosen to come out and open a bottle and read the message. Track the journeys on the world map.
Bottle 1: Thrown in to the sea at Morecambe Bay by a four-year-old girl as part of a nursery school project on ‘Beside the Sea’. This bottle ended up in Australia. Message: ‘Hello. Please will you write to me?’
Bottle 2: Dropped overboard by a Swedish sailor called Ake Viking. Picked up in a fishing net by a Sicilian fisherman. Message: ‘If any pretty girl finds this, please write!’ The fisherman gave it to his daughter, Paolina, who wrote back, and the couple subsequently married!
Bottle 3: Tied to the long line of a fishing net that was found by 88 refugees who had been abandoned in the seas off the coast of Ecuador. The boat had started to take in water and the men they had paid to take them to the USA had abandoned them three days earlier. As a result they were saved. Message: ‘Help, please, help us.’
Bottle 4: Picked up on a beach somewhere on the west coast of Africa, along with a New Testament of the Bible. Message: ‘God loves you very much.’ It had been sent by a charity called Bread on the Waters from the USA.
So you could put all sorts of messages in a bottle and who knows where it might end up and who might read it. It might be a cry for help, it might be a proposal of marriage, it might bring you a pen friend, or it might be good news for someone.
God is always there
Talk about the ways the children have already communicated today, e.g. talking, maybe a phone call, smiling, pulling a face, answering the register.
Show the children some of the forms of communication that you have brought. Ask what is good and bad about each one. For example, a mobile phone is a great way of communicating with people even when they are not at home; however, it can be easily lost, and there are times when it needs to be switched off, making the owner not contactable. An email is a good way to contact someone if you don’t want to disturb them at a busy time, but some people may not check their emails for days on end.
Explain that all forms of communication have their good and bad points but none of them gives immediate access to someone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Christians believe that God is available for us to talk to him at all times. They believe that there will never be a moment when God is not listening to us. This can bring people great comfort as they feel that they are never really alone. Psalm 121 verse 4 tells us: ‘He who watches over you will never slumber or sleep.’
When we think about how we communicate it’s really important to take the time to understand the feelings of others and what those around you really mean. Otherwise we might upset them, start arguments or just get very embarrassed.
Show the letters WC and ask your audience if they know what these initials stand for. (Answers may include Winston Churchill, West Central, etc.). Hopefully, you should eventually get the answer ‘water closet’ – an old-fashioned term for a toilet.
Now tell them the following story: A lady from England, while visiting Switzerland, asked the local schoolmaster to help her find a place to stay where she could have a room for the summer. He was a very kind man and took her to see several rooms. When everything was settled, the lady returned to England to make final preparations to move. When she arrived back home, however, the thought occurred to her that she had not seen a WC in the apartment. So, she immediately wrote a note to the Swiss schoolmaster asking him if there was a ‘WC’ in the place.
The schoolmaster only had a very limited knowledge of English and was not familiar with the term, so he asked the local priest if he could help in the matter. Together, they tried to find the meaning of the letters ‘WC’ and the only solution they agreed on was that the letters must be an abbreviation for ‘Wayside Chapel’ – a small church common in the Swiss countryside. The schoolmaster then wrote the following letter to the English lady:
My dear Madam, I am delighted to inform you that a ‘WC’ is situated nine miles from the house in the corner of a beautiful grove of pine trees, surrounded by lovely grounds. It is capable of holding 229 people, and it is open on Sundays and Thursdays only. As there are a great many people expected during the summer months, I would suggest that you come early, although there is usually plenty of standing room. This is an unfortunate situation, particularly if you are in the habit of going regularly. You will no doubt be glad to hear that a good many bring their lunch and make a day of it, while others, who are unable to go in their car, arrive just in time.
I would especially advise you to go on Thursdays when there is an organ accompaniment. The acoustics are excellent and even the most delicate sounds can be heard everywhere. The newest attraction is a bell, donated by a wealthy resident of the district, which rings every time a person enters.
It may interest you to know that my daughter was married in the ‘WC’ and indeed it was there that she first met her husband. I can remember the rush there was for seats. There were ten people to a seat usually reserved for one, and it was wonderful to see the expression on their faces.
Sadly my wife is rather delicate so she can’t go regularly: it is almost a year since she went last. Naturally it pains her not to be able to go more often. I shall be delighted to reserve the best seat for you, if you wish, where you will be seen by all.
Hoping to have been of some service to you, I remain, Yours truly, The Schoolmaster
Comment that, as you see, it is so easy to misunderstand those we come into contact with if we are not careful.
Obviously we hope to see you in the nearest WC – that’s Wayside Chapel, of course!
Do you ever feel lonely? Do you ever feel scared and alone? Christians believe that God is always with us and that we can talk to him at any time.
Thank you that you are always there for us to talk to.
Thank you that you understand me when other people don’t.