East End Prayer Space
Alley Nichols, children’s worker at Christ Church Spitalfields, describes the impact of a Prayer Space at her local primary school.
Our school is a bright gem set just off the bustling Brick Lane within the diverse East End. This is a one form entry school, with a significant Bengali Muslim community represented in the staff, children and families. During the summer term, a group of volunteers created an engaging space for the children to come and explore what Christian prayer looks like. It was an exceptional privilege to discuss spirituality with each class, while they interacted with the various creative resources in the room.
What was remarkable was that this diverse group of people came together to engage in prayer, despite the variety of faiths expressed among its participants. It was incredible to witness how every person inquisitively explored the interactive space, asked poignant questions and reflected on what they experienced.
Some of the conversations were witty and others heartbreaking. One Year 6 child declared that she wanted to champion equal rights for women in the workplace, during a discussion about future hopes and dreams. Yemi, in Year 3, modelled a clay circle of all of his family members, praying for each individual as he created. We found that each year group had a distinct experience of the prayer room, as God led them to discuss various themes and grapple with challenging topics.
One of our team members, Ali Matthews, reflected on how effective she thought quiet prayer was:
“The idea of the ‘lone’ space for them to be by themselves and pray to God seemed to really attract them. Perhaps the idea of being ‘alone’ is not something we have much of in our society of ‘everyone connected all the time’ and so perhaps this experience reached a deeper human need and instinct.”
When referring to praying for the homeless the children see in their local area, Eli Bettinson said:
“We were able to talk about how important it is to be thankful to God, to give our worries to him and to pray for others.”
One thing that really stood out for us is that some of the staff enjoyed the space too and were so encouraged that the children felt free to express their thoughts, anxieties, hopes and dreams because of the opportunities they were provided in the room. We often think that younger children aren’t affected by the world around them but this is not true. Giving them the opportunity to process some of what they see in their families, on the news and in social media, provided them the chance to prayerfully say what they think and express how they feel. In many ways this is a healing act in itself.