Posted by Phil on 16.08.2012
Alice Ovenden is a schools worker with the CROSS project in Wakefield, which is a collaborative project supported by a number of churches. CROSS have hosted quite a few prayer spaces in the area. Rather than describing the content, Alice offers her personal, and even poetic, reflections on this, their latest prayer space at St Wilfrid's Catholic School. Grab a cuppa and read on...
"An after-school dash to the far reaches of Wakefield and our team gathers to set up another prayer space in another school.
Our 'veteran' prayer space team leader and her 'novices' unload boxes of seemingly random articles, which we'll soon be using to help students creatively engage with God. Pegs, pebbles, paper and pens are all laid out - they remind us of prayers previous pupils have prayed before. Spurred on, we arrange shells, sticky notes, shelters and self-stick magnetic words for new students to send new ones. It feels like a reflection of the dynamic interaction God desires with those he loves.
"Our Father in heaven..." This is the place that Jesus taught his disciples to start, so we start there with each new set of students that visit the prayer space. We talk about 'the Lord's Prayer', we explain our love for God and we give examples of prayer in our lives. We explain the prayer activities that we've set up in their contemporary catholic chapel, and then off the students go... engaging, exploring, honestly responding and communicating with God.
I glimpse some of the anonymous stories shared with God; "happiness for my sister not to think about suicide", "that my parents don't argue", "for forgiveness", "thank you for friends, family..." and I love that we can trust each of these tales to God. I am grateful for the opportunitiy to provide a place like this, to lift some of the weight off precious shoulders.
What I cherish most is not just the in-the-moment reactions but the long-lasting seeds sown. When asked about their favourite prayer activities, students talk about the tent with it's flame-effect tea lights and the science-y electromagnetic globe. But the most popular 'activity' turns out to be the spontaneous one - during each session, Dan gathers a 'gaggle' of 13- and 14-year-old students who sit around laughing, listening and longing for the life they see in Dan.
They rollercoaster-talk of Bible stories, including the meaning of Jesus' life, death and ressurection... students ask 'true treasure' questions like; "if God's real why is there suffering?" "Are there still miracles today?" amongst others. Maybe God will one day play us a movie of our lives, and only then will we realise how these simple, creative, honest prayers were heard and answered?
"But with confidence, we draw near and lay out our bubble tubes and giant blow up globe because the God who promises is faithful."
All the best,
Alice Ovenden is a Schools Worker with the CROSS Project in Wakefield