‘How can God love me? He can’t love me, I’ve been too bad…’
Donna writes about her first prayer space at St Martins in the Fields High School for Girls during March.
“I am a parent of one of the 800+ students and with the assistance of the head teacher, her team, members of Holy Trinity (who work closely with the school) and Oasis church (of which I am a member) we hosted a prayer space for 3 days.
I first put the idea to the head teacher in January 2017 after attending a Christians in Government meeting (hosted by Department of Education) where Catherine from Prayer Spaces in Schools talked about the impact the project was having on schools.
The head teacher was very keen to run a prayer space. We had just two months between deciding to run a prayer space and the start date. I began gathering together help, praying and researching. It took a day to set up everything (it takes longer than you expect), but once complete, we were set to go.
The theme of the activities centered around Easter we focused primarily on the last week of Jesus’ life. There were 9 activities which included, what are you thankful for, forgiveness, friendships, helping others, your dreams and praying for the world.
I really didn’t know what to expect and if I’m honest I didn’t think many of the girls would turn up (apart from those who we scheduled to as part of their RS lessons). In the first couple of hours I was overwhelmed by how many of the girls came. They commented on how peaceful and calming they felt just being in the room. How it was a place to breathe, a place where they could be themselves. I think they didn’t know what to expect but as they started to take part in the activities around the room they felt safe enough to open-up and write what they were feeling. One student just began weeping at the ‘Sorry’ activity where she could write down what she was sorry for and put it on the cross.
‘I can see as a parent how valuable this space was, not just for the students but for the staff also.’
I left the space early on Tuesday afternoon, and wow when I came in on Wednesday the activities were filling up, so many comments, prayers and questions the room started to take shape. A couple of students were really thankful for the space because they came in to it just before an exam and were able to find peace and face what was ahead of them.
Here are just a few.
‘My dream is to go to heaven and enjoy it. To see Jesus and the face of God…’
‘I would like to thank God for giving me the opportunity of having so many hardworking teachers. I hope they don’t give up on us and that they can find some peace and joy in their job.
‘To do good on my exams and become and midwife when I’m older’
‘I hope my brother can be able to release his emotions without being called names…’
Lots of the girls came back again and again, it was amazing watching them engage (some not so much), but I realise that just the mere fact that they are in the room is incredible. There were also some challenging questions like ‘How can God love me? He can’t love me, I’ve been too bad…’ ‘Why do good people have to die?’ ‘Why didn’t you kill the devil if you knew what he was going to do?’ Why are we still sinning?'
By now the room was filled with so many prayers, reasons to be thankful, worries, dreams, big questions, saying sorry. The girls kept coming and we kept re-stocking paper pens etc... It was great to see some of the staff come in and see what the girls had done, I think they may have seen another side to the students that they teach.
Even some of the most difficult of students came and found it a restful, peaceful place. As we came to the end of our time and we started to pack up I felt sad, many of the girls were sad to see us go.
The hope is to run another prayer space but the school are also investigating what a permanent prayer space might look like too. I think one of my main highlights was when two girls reconciled their friendship at the forgiveness activity.
There is such a need my heart breaks, some of these girls just want to hear someone say something nice to them, encourage them and let them know someone is on their side. I’m not a teacher, I don’t work in a school, I’m a parent and I can see as a parent how valuable this space was, not just for the students but for the staff also. I have been so impacted by these 3 days and I know that the school has too, and the realisation is how vital these spaces are.
Donna Akodu, parent and prayer space co-ordinator