Posted by Phil on 23.05.2012
"We recently ran our second Prayer Space at Horfield C of E Primary in Bristol. Before our first one, the school were really stuck for inspiration of how to use the room they had designated. It was a very stark and uninviting space with school chairs and desks in it. We were delighted to see, when we returned for our second Prayer Space, that they had been fully inspired by the first one and that there were plenty of new and creative ideas and resources being used to fill the space, and that the parish curate had been manning the Prayer Space once per week since the start of the new year.
We had about 40 children come and visit this second Prayer Space during three lunchtimes over one week. The room comfortably fits eight pupils at a time with space for three different prayer stations. The school and our church, Ebenezer in Horfield, Bristol, had agreed that this Prayer Space should encourage the pupils to think specifically about their local community, as well as themselves, so we created one station focussing on the community, and two on the pupils. The themes and activities of the stations were;
+ Praying for your community ('Monopoly' prayer game)
+ Giving burdens to God (Luggage Tags & Suitcases activity)
+ Making requests (Playing Cards activity on PSiS website)
In the ‘Praying for your community’ station, we had a 'Monopoly' board with the different roads and landmarks in the area local to the school. The children chose a playing piece and threw the dice and said a prayer for the people in the place they landed on. We encouraged the children to play the game in a group of three or four and to have a couple of throws each. As well as street names on the board, there were also bus stops, a church, an elderly person’s home, a medical centre and the school. The ‘community chest’ cards had ideas of different types of people to pray for like; the sick, unemployed, lonely, those in poverty, those with depression, those involved in crime or in prison, single mums or dads, teenagers and children. The ‘chance’ cards all encouraged the children to think about one question they would like to ask God.
This was the most popular station, I think because it was so hands-on and familiar. It was great to hear children praying aloud together or to watch children closing their eyes and praying in a more traditional manner during their ‘turn’. One child said; “Prayer space was amazing… it made me think of poor people and how I could help them.”
Another popular and poignant activity was the ‘Giving burdens to God’ station. I found this on the PSiS website on a blog post from Banbridge, Northern Ireland. The principle behind it is that, God is able to carry our burdens and worries if we choose to let Him, and it works with children of any age. We had luggage tags which the children could write or draw their burdens onto, and suitcases and bags in which to place them and leave them with God.
The responses were very varied and ranged from; “I worry about death” to; “I’m scared of monsters and the dark”. I received a letter from the parents of one little boy who wanted to thank us for helping him to give his worries to God. She said; “My son, by nature is a worrier and so this session was particularly beneficial to him… It was wonderful to see him feel empowered by taking some practical action over things that have been worrying him.”
Some pupils responded to the prayer space as a whole by saying;
“I loved writing about my worries”
“I think this room is very calm and quiet and gets rid of bad feelings”
“It helped me reflect”
“I like prayer space because it’s a way to get closer to God”
The Head Teacher has been very enthusiastic about our involvement with their Prayer Space initiative and has asked for our thoughts about a possible outdoor Prayer Space over the summer term. I believe there is real scope for future development of this school’s Prayer Space plans. It’s fantastic that all people involved desire to see children engaging with prayer and spirituality in a natural way as they go about their daily school life!"
Kate Hunter is an ex-primary school teacher and an adult learning tutor. She's currently doing an internship in 'Children's and Youth Work' with Ebenezer Church in Horfield, Bristol. She has been responsible for running assemblies and setting up Prayer Spaces in the local schools.