An excellent opportunity for our church and school to come together
Prayer Spaces in Schools help visitors to schools run meaningful and beneficial prayer spaces, both in primary and secondary schools. Here’s a story from Hannah Mason, Head of Religious Education at St Mary’s and St John’s School in Hendon.
We ran the prayer space over the course of a week. Pupils from Year 5 to Year 8 visited during RE. The response to the prayer space was overwhelmingly positive throughout the school and church community. Once set up, the look and feel of the space was so radically different to a normal classroom that students instantly calmed down and were quiet as they entered the space. They moved sensibly and respectfully around the room using most activities independently. Volunteers supported by answering questions and where appropriate asking questions. One of our church volunteers remarked: ‘It was amazing seeing the pupils just get the idea the space straight away, and wonderful to be part of a very prayerful experience.’
It was striking how quickly students accessed and meaningfully engaged with the space. Students who normally struggled with silence seemed bound up in their own thoughts and comfortable with the peaceful atmosphere. All of the activities we used were ‘low-budget’ and very easy to set up. One of the stations was a large sheet of paper asking, ‘If you could ask God one question what would it be?’ Many of the answers were incredibly profound and you could tell by the responses that many students engaged with it at a deep level: ‘Will my sister ever come back?’, ‘Am I a good enough person?’ These were just two of some very profound and searching questions that were written, showing how moving an exercise it was for us as a school. The activities provided opportunities for students to express things they might never have felt able to do, part of this was down to the way the room was beautifully set up and the thought-provoking activities. One of the local clergy said he could feel that people had prayed here.
This has also been an excellent opportunity for our church and school to come together. Our church volunteers and clergy were vital in helping us create the space and run each session. The clergy commented on how important it is for the church to link into the school and making use of members of the congregation allowed us to share our faith with young people and to share our experiences of prayer. One church volunteer was able to share with some older students that it can be difficult to pray at times and how she has persisted even when times have been hard.
At the end of each session, students were given the opportunity to write a comment about the prayer space on a post-it note. Some of the remarks said, ‘It helped me to calm down,’ ‘This is a really positive experience,’ ‘I had time to think,’ ‘I reconnected with God and said sorry.’ We were repeatedly asked by both staff and students why the space wasn’t permanent. It was noted that both our excellent church volunteers and students agreed with a Post-it note written by a young child in our church who visited the space: ‘I want to stay here.’
If you’re interested in finding out how you can run a prayer space in your local school, the Diocese now has a partnership with Prayer Spaces in Schools. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.