31st May 2024

Did you catch a recent BBC “The One Show” piece on “Primary School Assembly Bangers”. It would seem there’s quite a bit of nostalgia for, and some fond memories of, these primary school assembly songs. The programme featured a music teacher who is doing a national tour of singalongs – the one at the Hen and Chicken in Bristol in a few days’ time is sold out!

A quick review of materials on the BBC website suggests that school children are still singing “Give me oil in my lamp” and “Kum ba yah” (and Graham Kendrick’s 1987 song “Shine Jesus Shine”). There are also new songs, presumably written to allow for corporate singing without reference to faith or God, about shared values such as love and friendship and even about recycling.

What we sing takes root and therefore matters. In an overview to John Bell’s book “The truth that sets us free” is written:

“What we sing shapes what we believe… It has led many Westerners to believe that Jesus was a silent baby (Away in a Manger) and a docile child (Once in Royal David’s City)… The songs we sing reflect the theology of our times, and theology is always in process because God is always on the move…”

Singing together, whether it be in school assembly, football crowd or church, is powerful stuff. Let’s hold in prayer those who influence what we sing together, given the impact that it may have in the moment, and well into the future too.

What songs would you want to include in primary school assemblies in 2024?

Ruth Allen