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"Prayer Spaces in Schools is one of the most exciting developments in Christian schools work in the last decade."Amy Stock (Director of schoolswork.co.uk)

Finding space and time for spirituality in school, both within and beyond the curriculum

Unfortunately the vicar was moving on, as was the local Christian schools worker - at the same time!! Bad planning- but my bigger concern was – how and who would continue to support the local community secondary school? The church community had a link through a school governor and so we made contact and met with the Deputy Head teacher.

How do you make a ‘good’ first impression? We had decided the best approach was to offer to run a prayer space at Beacon Hill Community School, Aspatria, Cumbria.…… Nothing like this had happened in the school before, it was slightly more ‘out there’ than a lunch club or assembly - and we were unknowns - yet Dave, the Deputy Head teacher, went for the idea and took it to the school body to agree.

The process took some time, but it was decided we could have two classrooms, one was to be a quiet space and the other more activity based, the rooms needed to be called ‘reflective rooms’ to sit comfortably for all within the school. And so nearly five months later Yvette, the local Network Youth Church Leader, and myself held a three day prayer space.

The event was launched with an assembly looking at the topic ‘where do you go, who do you go to?' This showcased one of the activities we would be using and left the young people with some questions to ponder. Initially the young people were brought through the Reflective Rooms in form groups and this was accompanied with a loose lesson structure, but at break times and for the rest of the days it was an open drop-in space.

There was never a moment when the Reflective Rooms were unpopulated. Whether it was teachers enjoying a little quiet, or young people who had requested a break from class time, nearby youth workers seeking ideas for their patch or the dinner ladies coming to see what all the buzz in the dinner hall had been about, there was a steady stream of visitors.

"I can endorse the experience for all types of schools whether they be faith or secular schools wholeheartedly.” Deputy Headteacher

There were six activities in one room:

Pleased to be me - looking at being thankful and embracing our uniqueness
I’m Sorry - looking at oneself and who do I need to say sorry to?
Big Questions - if you could ask God one question, what would it be?
The World - what are your hopes for these areas
Love is a many splendid thing - what do you love? - what are your dreams, hopes…
Forgiveness - looking at letting go - 'Is there someone you want to forgive?'   

'During a Personal Development lesson we went into the ‘Reflection Rooms’, this was organised by the church and we had lots of activities to do: there was a poster were you could  write your name and put your finger print next to it - this was about you being unique and there is nobody like you. The Quiet Room which was all about self-reflection we could look at some of the objects, there was stones and sticks with messages on them, as well as soothing music and we could draw around our hand and write about our experiences. It was dark in the room with bean bags to sit on. I found the room helped me to reflect.' Year 8 student

The Quiet Room housed a big gazebo covered in drapes, was dimly lit and had a power-point of images and gentle music playing. There were baskets filled with things to touch and read, pebbles, wooden carvings, psalms and affirming comments. There were art materials and blackboards if desired- but the space was designed to be non-directional. A free space to ‘just- be’. Something that young people, particularly in a school setting, are rarely offered.

'The Quiet room had lots of bean bags and pillows; it was dark and was lit up by lava lamps and fairy lights. There was music playing and there were little baskets; one had stones in with inspiring words in such as love, hope and faith. Another basket had little phrases to read. This room had a nice atmosphere and was overall calm and peaceful and very good to think about things.' Year 8 student

"‘Reflection Rooms’ fills a much needed gap in finding space and time for spirituality, in school both within the curriculum and beyond it. Students and teachers readily embraced the project which was discreetly staffed by trained Diocesan leaders. The assembly beforehand set the scene and tone for the event and students evaluated the experience afterwards with a piece of extended writing. Students have requested reflection rooms be annual event. I can endorse the experience for all types of schools whether they be faith or secular schools wholeheartedly.” Dave Millne, Deputy Headteacher

 

Emma Richardson, Church and School Officer, Carlisle Diocese

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Posted on 16th December 2014

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