Posted by Phil on 08.05.2012
Christ College School in Guildford was built with a large Chapel in the centre of the school, so prayer has always been a focus. It is located in the heart of one of Guildford more deprived areas and its mission statement is 'Discimus ut Serviamus' (Learning to serve) which reflects their commitment to God and to those around them. For the past three years the school have made prayer weeks a focal part of their school calendar, re-worked their timetables and given us the Chapel as a venue.
We wanted to look at the long term implications of this prayer week so drew together a team from the local Churches and existing youth provision to be part of the Prayer Space week. This meant we could facilitate a creative Prayer Space along with lessons around prayer which assisted young people in prayer both practically and spiritually. We wanted to build upon on what God is already doing through the Church in this school and unite as one body for this school.
Years 7 to 10 all came through the Chapel, and it is evident, as I sit here and reflect on the words that have been said, pinned to walls and scribbled on paper, that this week has been something beautiful and powerful for so many of the students who have walked through the door.
I am always surprised how different stations impact students differently. Our 'Sorry' zone had a station where students could write the name of someone they need to forgive on a pebble, place it in the water and watch as the name disappears as a way to forgive those who have hurt us.
One Year 7 girl said how she “felt like all the anger just went” when she watched the name of the person disappear and said how she wants to take it into her “real life.” Another girl said, “when I put the stone in it was letting go of what I did.” I found as I wandered around after classes had left, that there is so much that the students in this school are holding onto which is heartbreaking. There is so much pain posted about the state of the world, people’s families and themselves.
One station that I found particularly difficult to read was in our 'Who Am I?' zone. It was simply a mirror with a space for students to write down what they see and what they think God sees, but it seemed to provide a space for students to air their fears and what they find difficult to say. One post-it said “a person I don’t like and who needs to change”. Another one said “a fat, ugly person who has to be someone else”. Others said, “unforgivable”, “nothing” and “shameful”. A girl mentioned how she appreciated that no-one knew what she wrote but also like seeing what other thought and sharing in that.
Many students had 'Big Questions' about the state of our world and showed real concern for issues around injustice. One Muslim girl said how she wanted to pray for those who got bullied as it goes too far and scribbled down what she felt. Another girl went from station to station in silence and then eventually drew round her hand and said a beautiful prayer for situations in her school. In conversation with her, I discovered that in the last few years her mother, father and brother had all died, but she said, "it’s ok because God is with me”. This is simple faith but it’s helped a young girl get through one of life’s most difficult situations.
We had many students engaging in prayer for the first time. My favourite quote from the week was from a Year 8 boy who said, “I thought prayer was a long paragraph but I thinks its short to express your feelings”.
Another Year 8 boy said, “It was like wicked” as he left the Prayer Space. One of his class mates told me how “it makes God not boring”. We were given a 'heads-up' about a boy who finds it difficult to concentrate in class and has anger issues, but when he left he said that the Prayer Space had helped him. He wanted it to be available all the time, a place to come when he is angry. His teacher said that he could still do these activities when he's angry, that it didn't just have to be about this week.
The lessons supported the encounters the students were having and whilst the week was hard work it paid off. A youth worker from the local church is already looking at how he can build on the experiences the young people had during the Prayer Space week, and is talking with the school about delivering workshops with the students - many of them have asked for this.
This week was not the start of anything, but it's built upon what God is already doing through His Church. The long term vision is that students would encounter Jesus and we have had the privilege to be part of that discovery. I look forward to the repercussions of this week and returning next year.
Emma Nicholson is a youth worker with The Matrix Trust in Guildford. The Matrix Trust is a Christian charity committed to transforming communities. It enables churches, individuals, businesses and charities to invest directly in effective youth and community work. It exists to facilitate creative projects, cooperative youth work and student work, and to help the community in Guildford support young people positively.