Posted by Phil on 03.05.2012
Oli Higham is a schools worker attached to Linwood Parish Church. Oli works out of Linwood High School supporting the school and its feeder primaries. Alongside the chaplaincy team, made up of the Parish minister, Baptist minister and school staff, Oli has been looking at how we create opportunities to foster spiritual development within a school context.
"At Linwood High School we have been looking at how we tackle the task of religious observance. All schools in Scotland are required to provide at least six opportunities for the school community to look at spiritual development. Much of the thinking behind this is about creating opportunities for experiential exploration rather than as an academic activity. Historically this has taken the format of assemblies. We, however, have felt that assemblies aren’t the best place for authentic spiritual development to be fostered.
We’ve looked at taking these religious observance opportunities (known within the school as Soul Space Experiences) outside of the assembly. We’ve used video projects, art installations, film clubs, and café based activities as vehicles to explore life’s big questions. So, when we heard about the concept of Prayer Spaces in Schools we jumped at the chance to put one together for Linwood High School.
Meeting the various groups in the corridor outside the prayer room, there was an interesting moment when the door was opened and they walked into the room for the first time. Many of the groups commented that they were expecting either prayer mats or a circle of chairs and some bibles. We spent a brief time looking at the fact you could pray anywhere and about anything. We then explained the different prayer stations within the room, giving pupils the rest of the period to explore and interact with the different activities. This usually meant everyone congregating around the plasma balls and then moving on to the other activities.
We had four main themes behind the various stations;
+ personal identity,
+ the world around us,
All of the stations had a different feel about them. Some required actions, while others call for personal reflection. Much of the feedback was how much more enjoyable the room was than having an assembly. Many commented on the peace they felt while in the room. A group of pupils returned every lunchtime and after school to hang out in the peaceful place.
While tidying up the room between classes it was interesting reading some of what had been written at the different stations. These prayers reflected some of the complex lives young people within our community face.
"Can you help me through these bad times and can you help me find trust and hope again?"
"How do we know that you are real?"
"Is my gran and rabbit happy in heaven? Keep them safe."
"Thanks you for helping me through life."
"Why do we hurt?"
"Why are people born different?"
We had the privilege of exploring some of these questions around pain and hope in the Easter assembly the following week by looking at the story of the disciples seeing the personification of their hope dying on the cross.
We're hoping to introduce more opportunities like the prayer room into the school calendar, and that these experiences will benefit the school community by helping them to engage with their own spiritual development.
As part of our planning for the room we acquired some funding from the Novum Trust. Part of this funding bid was to also provide a bank of resources for other prayer rooms. So if you are looking to do something similar (and if you're close to Glasgow) then please email email@example.com. We have a bubble wall, magnadoodles, plants, material, plasma balls, fairy lights,etc."
Oli also created a video-summary of the Prayer Space.