Bishop opens permanent woodland prayer space in Barrow primary school
The Bishop of Penrith, Robert Freeman, spent Monday afternoon with the pupils and staff of St Paul’s Church of England Junior School in Barrow, hearing how a week’s Harvest prayer space four months ago has inspired pupils to design their own permanent prayer space in a shed in the wildlife area.
Head teacher Ruth Webster explained how the Prayer Shed idea developed: “The pupils responded so enthusiastically to the Harvest Prayer Space that they asked to have a permanent prayer space here at school. The Prayer Shed provides the community of St Paul’s school with a versatile space where we can develop our spirituality, reflective thinking skills and love of creation in a very practical way.”
After a week of heavy rain, the sun shone on Monday 24th February as all the pupils, staff and local church members lined the path through the wood leading up to the shed, singing a song written specially for the occasion, whilst Bishop Robert processed past. The excitement built as the scissors were handed over and everyone joined in a countdown to the cutting of the ribbon. Once inside the Prayer Shed (a first for Bishop Robert!) he was able to read some of the prayers already written on post-it notes at one prayer station and experience the welcoming space, which was designed by members of class four with the help of the RE coordinator, Gemma Wright.
The shed is just large enough to fit a whole class inside at once and, along with an outside campfire space, is located in a secluded area of the school’s wildlife woodland. As well as being used by each class for regular RE lessons, the prayer shed will also be available to the other local schools already using the wildlife area for outdoor learning sessions.
A lot of thought has been put into the space and the pupils wanted to make it as comfortable and exciting as possible. Over the last term pupils have woven mats from recycled T-shirts, developed a notice board area complete with sparkly lights, created a space to sit and read their favourite bible stories, made bunting and added other decorations. The outside is also wonderfully decorated, including two hand painted crosses in the style of El Salvadorian art. One side of the shed has removable panels like a bird hide, to allow glimpses of God’s wonderful creation from inside the prayer shed.
It is so encouraging to see how a prayer space week can have such a lasting impact on a school community - an excited buzz went around the assembly as pupils were asked to remember the Harvest prayer space. Children are still sharing their own personal answers to prayer from the week – one boy recently told the Head teacher that his prayer from that week had been heard by God and answered, as both his parents had now passed the British language and citizenship test, enabling him to stay at the school.
For me in my role as diocesan Church and Schools Officer, this is what the hard work involved in developing prayer spaces in schools is all about; allowing each member of a school’s community the opportunity to experience prayer in different and exciting ways, watching the relationships between local church and school communities grow and develop, seeing how God touches individuals and answers prayers – what could be more exciting than that?! Four months later, the ripples are still continuing to spread outwards in St Paul’s junior school Barrow, and my prayer is that the Prayer Shed will be a space where God will continue to impact the school community and change lives.
Sarah Hulme, Church & Schools Officer, Diocese of Carlisle
Read the original report from the Harvest Prayer space.
And why not view more fantastic photos from the Prayer Shed?Posted on 10th March 2014