Monday, 12 November 2018

Scallop Shells Anyone? An End of Year Chapel Service Idea!

Many years ago, we moved house suddenly due to the First Gulf War. In fact we were part of a swift evacuation that involved leaving the country almost overnight with one suitcase – which was packed with mainly baby supplies and photographs! While living in Dubai all that time I ago, I had collected shells with my own children. Dubai was a very different place then and the beach where we used to play is now home to the Burj Al Arab! I was sad that we lost our shell collection because those shells were part of our story. Shells have long been a part of people’s lives.

For early Christians, the scallop shell was a symbol of pilgrimage. People who travelled and crossed the seas would often bring a scallop shell home as a souvenir. The scallop shell became the symbol of someone who was a pilgrim or who had journeyed with God.
The wonderful website Barnabas in Schools, which always has great resources, has a fabulous end of year school service. I know that most of you have already written your End of Year services and printed the prayers – but maybe save this idea for next year.
The Scallop Shell Service idea is about using pilgrimage imagery to reflect positively on the past year.

“The end of the school year, like other stages of transition, can be a bittersweet time of both looking back and looking ahead, with wistful goodbyes and hopes for the future. Reminiscences and regrets can blur. This idea helps you to celebrate the positive, place the negatives in some helpful context and focus attention on going forward.”

If you are a priest, you probably use a scallop shell when baptising a baby. You could show your students the shell and explain that sometimes, when someone is baptised as a Christian, the priest will pour water on their head with a scallop shell to show that this is their first step in making that long life-journey with God.

The website gives you an outline for a service and plenty of information.  You could also have a scallop shell prayer space where students reflect on their time at school by writing about their own journey on cut out scallop shells. You could create an entire ‘beach’ with the scallop shells of your students.

Remind the students that some journey are difficult but we can persevere and be joyful as we remember the good times. Mistakes are a part of our learning journey and help us to grow.

I know the plans I have for you... They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT)

Jesus said:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28–29, NIV)

There are plenty of articles online about the scallop shell to help you with your message. You may even know someone who has walked the The Road to Santiago.  Here you can read about St James and the scallop shell. The scallop shell is the iconic symbol of the Camino de Santiago.

I think the symbolism of the shell is something with which children will connect and it will be an image they will remember. Imagine sending off all your students on their summer holidays, knowing that some will see a shell, pause, reflect and possibly even think of their own journey with God!

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