Primary (especially suitable for Key Stage 2)
- To learn about St David.
- To reflect on the possibility and implications of living a less consumerist life.
- A mobile phone
- A TV remote control and/or TV Times or similar listings magazine
- A set of car keys
- Some sweets
- A recording of plainchant (e.g. one of the popular versions of Gregorian chant that have become widely available)
(Hold up keys) How many of you could live without using a motor car?
(Hold up sweets) How many of you could live without ever eating sweets?
(Hold up mobile phone) No more than five years ago hardly anyone had a mobile phone. How many of you here today have a mobile phone in your house? This year mobile phones were the most popular Christmas present and everyone seems to need one. How many of you could live without one?
(Hold up TV remote control) 30 years ago there were only two channels on TV - and children's TV lasted for one hour, between 5 and 6 p.m. Today cable TV promises hundreds of channels, some of them dedicated solely to children's programmes - Teletubbies 24 hours a day!!! Wow... How many of you could live without a TV in your house?
Today, I want us to think about someone who lived well over a millennium ago. At a time long before there were cars, or telephones, or TVs - there weren't even foods such as tomatoes, potatoes, or chocolate - at least, not in Europe, because these foods originally come from America, which hadn't yet been discovered by Europeans. The person I want us to think about was called Dewi [pronounced 'dowie'] and he was the son of a King. He lived in the country we call Wales. There weren't any cities in Wales in those days, and even a King's palace probably wasn't much more than a large, straw-roofed hut. Still, he was a prince and he would have got the best food (boiled lamb and peas?) and, in the evening, he would have had the best music - the latest bard strumming on his harp and singing a three-hour epic. Sounds as if it was definitely better being a prince than being a peasant!
One day, a voice spoke to Dewi and told him to become a monk. That was serious! 'Monks' had only just been invented and becoming one involved abandoning all the good things that a prince expected. But Dewi knew what he must do. He abandoned his rich clothes and instead wore rags and animal skins. Instead of rich foods he ate only bread and cabbage and drank only water - he never touched meat. Instead of ordering servants to do the work for him, he tied the plough around his shoulders and dragged it through the dirt himself. He gave all his possessions away and owned nothing. He vowed that he would never marry. Whenever he felt bored he jumped up to his neck in an icy river so that he could pray.
Most important of all, though, Dewi set off into the moors and mountains to tell everyone he met about Jesus. He didn't know where he was heading, but ... God sent an angel, which pointed him in the right direction. As he went, he carried with him a bell, which he called 'BANGU' (in Welsh this means, apparently, 'the dear, loud one'). Wherever he stopped he rang this bell, the people gathered to see what on earth was going on - and Dewi gave them a blast of the Gospel. People were so stunned that they built churches on the spot.
In English Dewi is translated as David - and Dewi is remembered as St David. He is the patron saint of Wales. He has this honour because he is remembered as the person who planted the church in Wales. Why did he have to live in such a radically different way, though? Well... he abandoned everything because he wanted to live in the presence of God. He didn't want to be distracted from God. He didn't want to be bothered with wearing the latest fashions or listening to the latest bard; he wanted to listen to God. Only if he listened to God could he preach to the people with power.
Why don't you try it? Not that you need to throw away all your clothes and dress in rags, or spend your evening lying in an icy bath. You could give up sweets - or using your mobile phone. Or why not, for example, abandon television for a week (or a month! or a year!!)? A lot of people today are beginning to think that television is a kind of drug - something that dulls your mind, rather than opening your eyes. If, instead of spending every evening watching Neighbours, you spent the time outside playing, you would at least feel the breeze of spring blowing across your skin and see the blazing orange sun set through the tree tops in the park. Maybe, who knows, you might find God whispering in your ear...
Who knows? All that Dewi - David - knew was that you had to live in quietness if you were going to hear what God had to say to you.
Plain chant from a monastic service. Or download some of the choral music available on the Hutterite website given below.
Let's be quiet now and think about the things that we really need in our life - food, water, shelter, people who love us...
And now let's think about what we want: the latest toy, the latest gadget, a new computer game or a mobile phone. All the time we are bombarded by adverts telling us we've got to have these things. But do we really have to have them? Jesus taught his disciples that it was impossible for rich people to get into heaven. Maybe that's not so much about how much money or things you have. Maybe it's more about not cluttering up our heads with so many wants and so much busyness that we haven't got room for what's really important.
- Talk about television and its role in the children's lives. Talk about 'International TV Turn-Off
Week' - would the children sign the pledge to turn off and 'get a life' for a week?
To find out more about the anti-TV movement visit www.whitedot.org/ A lot of American schools get involved in this week and have created their own websites about the experience - try 'TV turn-off' in Alta Vista.
- Find out about modern day monks. How do they spend their days? Could the children live like that? To find about, for example, the Benedictine Order try www.osb.org/
- Watch the first few minutes of the film Witness, which is set among the old-order Amish community of America. These people have dropped out of modern consumer society, and seem to be thriving. What do the children think? Alternatively, look at the scene where the Amish are confronted by a group of yobs and yet respond with total pacifism (until Harrison Ford starts punching people!). What do the children think of that? For background to the Amish try the Canadian Mennonite Encyclopedia Online www.mhsc.ca/encyclopedia/contents/A4574ME.html
- Alternatively, explore with the children the lives of the Hutterites (the Hutterian Brethren). These communities, although they do not shun modern technology, are in many ways more radical than the Amish. They are pacifists and, based on the teaching of Acts 2, live in communist colonies. As with Roman Catholic monks no individual owns anything, but they have managed to combine this with living in families. The Mennonite Encyclopedia gives good background information (see above). Even better, visit the Hutterites' own site at www.hutterites.org/, a very informative site constructed by children from the Decker Colony, Manitoba. They seem quite welcoming and might well respond to children's questions about their strict non-consumerist lifestyle.