Posted by Phil on 06.06.2012
"On 18th/19th April a team of local Christians together with Prayer Spaces In Schools in Oxfordshire set up gazebos in St Andrew’s Primary School, to explore with the 200 children what Christian prayer is. The Prayer Space was a ‘classic’ Thank You, Sorry, Please and Our World experience. It involved plasma balls, trays of sand, playdough 'thank yous' and mountains of Post-It notes!
a place or house of worship; a slightly built or temporary habitation; especially, a tent
(verb) tabernacle to dwell or reside for a time
Prayer Spaces are like 'temporary tents', places where children can ‘tabernacle’ or dwell, places where they can explore prayer, and perhaps, meet with God. One child said ‘I felt like I could touch God, and he follows me wherever I go.’ Another said that they felt peace and that 'God has everything in his hands'.
The contrast between the humour and the hurt hit me more in this space that any previous Prayer Space I’ve been in. The variety was wide, from ill grandparents, precious pets, difficulties with family members or National tests. These were mixed in with ‘please can I have an X-Box’-style requests and asking God, ‘Do you play tennis?'
For many of the older children SATs were a worry; there were many prayers on the Bubble tube about SATS. This surprised the team as the school has a good balanced approach to these national tests and helps children do well with a low-key approach to them. However, something about testing clearly causes anxiety for many children.
Feedback back from adults who helped with the prayer space;
"I shared the experience with Year 1 and it was a very moving to see the younger children engage with these very basic aspects of prayer. I found it very challenging to have the opportunity at the end of the two days to read some of the concerns and worries that our young people expressed. It will be wonderful to engage with Prayer Space as part of our school year."
Father Darren, Vicar of St Andrews Church, Headington.
"The Prayer Space was a unique and wonderful event, every child who came in seemed excited to be there and keen to join in. It was great to see how they might engage with God in really simple ways, something really different which challenged and reassured lots of them, how they could just talk to him anytime."
Steph Cory, parent helper
"I was impressed and moved by the Prayer Space. The children certainly seemed to engage with it fully, with little evidence of cynicism. While I was supervising part of the lunch hour, a large group left their shoes outside the bubble tube gazebo, despite not being asked to remove them by anyone. I felt that the pile of shoes was a metaphor for the children recognising the power of this as a holy space, and choosing to enter into it fully, not half-heartedly. It was special!"
Walter Bayer, class teacher
"I would encourage all schools to consider bringing in a Prayer Space. As a parent, I was delighted that my seven year old son had the opportunity to explore the prayer space and engage in the different types of prayer."
Peter Toller, parent helper
Prayer Space are an amazing way of introducing prayer to children and providing them the opportunity, if they wish, to bring their concerns, their needs, their thanksgiving and things they were sorry for to God. Those of faith and no faith find that they are welcomed and included, and yet the Prayer Space remains distinctly Christian in it's approach.
To tabernacle means to dwell with God, especially in tents. The children of St Andrew’s School certainly did that."
Nick Jackson is a Family and Children’s Worker at Headington Baptist Church.