January 25 Conversion of St Paul
Originally a fervent persecutor of the first Christians, Paul turned that Jewish sect into a major world faith
Outline script for assembly leaders
It happened on the road to Damascus. Lightning flashed around him and he fell to the ground. Then he heard a voice. "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
Saul was a Greek-speaking Jew who was also a freeborn citizen of the Roman empire (which gave him many privileges). He was also a Pharisee and, in the years following the crucifixion of Jesus, eager to discover and bring to trial any of his followers. For this purpose, he travelled from Jerusalem to Damascus to hunt out Christians there and it was close to that city that he heard the voice.
"I am Jesus," he heard the voice say. "I am Jesus whom you persecute. Now get up and go to Damascus. You'll be told what to do." As Saul staggered to his feet, he realised he could see nothing. He was now blind, so his companions led him into the city to the house of a man called Judas. Saul stayed three days, unable to see and refusing food and drink.
At this time, a Christian in Damascus called Ananias had a vision, telling him to go to the house of Judas and ask for Saul. Although Ananias knew Saul had been persecuting Christians, he visited him, put his hands on his head and told him Jesus had sent him. At that moment, Saul's sight returned. He was baptised as a Christian and became known as Paul. Not surprisingly he was now mistrusted by both Jews and Christians. Eventually he had to escape from the city at dead of night by being lowered in a basket from the city walls.
In the following years, he travelled round the Mediterranean, teaching many non-Jews the Christian faith.
Follow up Discuss the problems faced in publicly changing your mind, in changing sides or making new friends.
A 1950s boys comic, The Eagle, retold the adventures of Paul in comic strip format. Encourage groups to retell the story of his conversion (Acts of the Apostles, chapter 9), imprisonment (chapter 16) or shipwreck (chapter 27) in strip form - possibly with one pupil drawing backgrounds, others being responsible for each character.
Background information is at: www.bbc.co.ukreligionreligionschristianityfeatures (click on St Paul).