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Lucy and the spider

Another story by Revd Peter Calvert

Popping into the infant assembly to tell the little ones a story is one of the week’s more pleasant tasks – but it doesn’t always go according to plan. Theory and practice in education don’t always match, and none of the training manuals say much about arachnophobia. Lucy’s recent encounter suggests that they should.

I had intended to present a simple, encouraging assembly about how the disciples stopped being frightened after Easter, and came to believe that Jesus was alive. This was fine – until the spider appeared.

It was a large one, but it presented no threat, as it scuttled under the computer shelf. But Lucy saw it, and immediately launched into an Oscar-winning performance demonstrating her fear of spiders. As those around her were tempted into the same indulgence, I had to abandon the disciples to explain that spiders are good, useful creatures, and that without them we would be feet deep in flies.

All could still have been well, if the spider had stayed put.  But it emerged from under the shelf, and headed at great speed straight for Lucy, as she sat cross-legged on the floor – and disappeared underneath her.

The effect was electrifying. From that cross-legged position, Lucy leapt into the air in one single gravity-defying movement worthy of a Harry Potter film – and when gravity got its own back, landed on top of the spider.

Shocked by the combination of close contact with the spider and the sudden revelation of her own powers of extermination, she howled even more loudly than before – which of course set off the other reception children. Half of them sobbed because they too didn’t like spiders – while the other half, believing implicitly everything Mr Calvert says, wailed because the lovely useful spider was obviously very dead.

Some time later we did manage to get back to the Easter story – but the remains, removed to the computer shelf, were the real centre of attention, and I knew that the disciples would have to wait for another day.

At the end the slightly bemused older infants at the back of the room, who had missed all the action, solemnly walked out taking a long look at the corpse, much in the fashion of an official lying-in-state.

Goodness knows what they will remember; but if ever you come across a small child who tells you that the disciples were frightened of spiders, but Jesus made them feel better….  you’ll know where that child comes from.


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