This October, a team of us had the wonderful opportunity to run Prayer Spaces in Schools at Padnell Junior School, just along the road. “Prayer Spaces in Schools enable children and young people, of all faiths and none, to explore these life questions, spirituality and faith in a safe, creative and interactive way.” (www.prayerspacesinschools.com/about-us)
We were given the library, a large open space fairly central to the school, to transform into 6 different prayer stations for students and teachers to explore. The stations we chose focused upon a range of different themes:
Autumn Leaves focused upon the changes students were experiencing or anticipating and how this made them feel. They could write these thoughts or prayers and attach them to our tree. Many of the responses we saw highlighted the difficulties of living with separated parents, the changes caused by the loss of a loved one and a fear of approaching change.
Photo: Autumn Leaves
Mirrors allowed students to explore their own self-identity, focusing upon building positive body image. This was an interesting prayer station that allowed students to look at their own appearance and think about how they felt about it. This station seems to have influenced comments on other stations, such as “God loves you just the way you are” and “you should love yourself”.
Photo: Cardboard Home
Cardboard Home gave students the opportunity to sit insider a cardboard box and think about the many people around the world who live in cardboard boxes or similar. They were then encouraged to write their thoughts and feelings upon the boxes. The comments showed us a deep empathy and desire to help those in need with messages including “God please help the homeless people” and “I wish I could help you”. Others demonstrated some type of guilt that others live in this way: “I feel very spoilt I am sorry”. Many students also picked out how they would feel living in such an environment: sad, helpless, lonely, hungry, thirsty.
Pray for the World allowed students to pray and think about different people and situations around the world that they knew of. They could then stick these upon a large map using post-it notes. Many students picked our friends and family living all across the world and prayed or thought about them. Many topical issues were also highlighted: the hurricanes and destruction across Florida and Central America as well as tensions between America and Korea or Russia.
Photo: Pray for the World
Big Questions asked students to consider what question they would like to ask God if they could. A huge range of questions were asked within this prayer space. Many focused on purpose: “Why am I here?”, “Why did you make humans?”, “What are we here for?”. Others looked at who God is and his creations: “What is it like to be God?”, “Where are you?”, “How were the moon and the sun created?”, “How did you make the world?”. Another key topic was suffering: “Why are there so many homeless people?”, “Why did my uncle die?”, “Why is there war?”.
Be Still provided a space, either inside a small pop-up tent or on beanbags for students to be quietly reflective or praying. This was a very popular station with many students spending lots of time sitting inside the tent either in silence or praying together.
Photo: Be Still
Each class visited us for a lesson each, with the stations remaining open during lunch and break times to allow students to come back again. During the lessons we chatted to the students before and after they had explored the stations, asking them whether they had prayed before, how they thought they could pray as well as finding out their experiences of the prayer stations. Many of the students told us that they had prayed before, whether when visiting St Wilfrid’s or in assemblies, in their bedroom or before dinner. Lots of them, however, were very surprised to enjoy the prayer stations. One boy told us that he had expected them all to be really boring but felt that they had been really fun and enjoyable.
Prayer Spaces in Schools was a wonderful opportunity to see children interacting with God in a whole range of different, creative, interactive ways and it was wonderful to read many of their thoughtful, inspiring and thought-provoking reactions to the prayer stations we created.