Head teacher praises prayer space as “One of the most effective sessions I have seen in my career."
"We have recently finished an eight day prayer space in Ulverston Victoria High School, Cumbria, a community school with approximately 1200 students aged 11-18. It has been an exciting, fun and moving experience for all the volunteers, students and staff involved.
We were invited by the Deputy Head, Mr John Griffiths to set up a prayer space in one of the classrooms used mainly for Belief, Philosophy and Ethics (BPE). We were also invited to introduce the prayer stations during the year 7 - year 11 assemblies and lead all the year 7 lessons whilst the prayer space was on.
Our prayer activities
We set up 9 prayer activities - here are just some of the comments from the students who enjoyed them:
1. World Cup Prayer
“My favourite prayer station was the World Cup one– we might support the teams but we don’t know what it’s like to live in their country.” Year 7 student
2. Big Questions
"The Big Questions station was my favourite because it was a chance for me to write down what I felt and it feels like I got something off my chest.” Year 11 student
3. Prayer Wall
“You get to read peoples thoughts.” Year 8 student
“It shows how God helps many people.” Year 10 student
“It made me emotional reading everyone’s prayers.” Year 8 student
4. Hopes & Dreams
“I liked thinking about my hopes and dreams because it makes you think more positively. Often we are made to think about all the negative stuff.” Year 7 student
“I liked writing my dreams for the world down.” Year 7 student
“My hopes and dreams for the future are that all people should have a home or at least have somewhere with a roof over their head that’s dry and have enough food to live with.” Student
5. Be Still
“I found out how to calm down.” Year 8 student
“It was very relaxing.” Year 8 student
6. Letting Go
“I liked the listening because I feel I don't need to worry anymore.” Year 7 student
“I enjoyed listening to the mp3 player and letting go of worries because you just sat there and it made you calm.” Year 7 student
“I liked the station when we wrote a worry down on a pebble in the form of a letter – it’s just a letter but it means something to you and no one else.” Year 7 student
“I liked the station where we chose pictures that explained our life at the moment. It made me realise I was stressed and that I needed to be calmer.” Year 9 student
8. Stop the Traffik
“I found the Stop the Traffik station really interesting as I didn’t know that slavery happened in our country.” Year 7 student
“The trafficking station was challenging but it was interesting learning about other peoples lives and writing my feelings down about it.” Year 7 student
“I was struck by what pupils wrote about their identity on the pegs, some were positive and affirming and some were negative and broke my heart and it made me pray that young people would learn the truths about what God thinks of them.” Vic, volunteer.
Prayer room full to capacity!
During those eight days over 300 students came in and experienced the prayer space. As well as the Year 7 students experiencing five of the nine stations during their lessons, the prayer space was open during break and lunch times. On an average day we had around five students visit during break times and 30 at lunchtimes. It was amazing, we never expected the room to be so full! Some young people came back every day.
One memorable moment for me was at the end of a lesson when two students fed back. One girl, who doesn’t often speak in class, said that she is often negative but that during the lesson she was able to feel positive as she spent time thinking about her dreams and letting go of her worries. Another boy experienced deep emotion during the lesson and was able to have space to think.
Many of the prayers students wrote on post-it notes for the Prayer Wall were heart wrenching. One student prayed for her friend to stop hurting herself. At the end of one of the assemblies a year 8 girl came up to us and asked us to pray for her Dad who’s never walked. I was moved!
We had great warmth and feedback from the staff:
Mrs C Tennyson, Head of BPE said “Thank you so much for sharing your Prayer Space with our BPE department. It has been a really positive experience and we hope you choose to run it again next year.”
Mr D Fay, the head teacher sent an encouraging letter, thanking us for the Prayer Space initiative. He said, “I attended a classroom reflection session for Year 7 in our Beliefs Philosophy and Ethics programme and I have to comment it was one of the most effective sessions I have seen during my career. The ethos in the lesson was superb and the gentle interaction between adults and children was heart-warming! We would welcome Prayer Space back next year as part of the Year 7 BPE programme. Too often schools give into Ofsted pressures and neglect the spiritual needs of their students. The Prayer Space is a unique way of redressing the balance.”
We also found out how students felt about the prayer space as a whole:
"I found the prayer space relaxing and nice to write down your feelings and to see if others related to you”. Year 9 student
“From my experience of the prayer space I realised how things are bad & good and even though I have no religion it showed me how prayer can help if you have someone you can turn to for advice and help.” Year 9 student
“The prayer space gave me time to think about things.” Year 7 student
“The prayer space was a nice environment (peaceful, happy & calm).” Year 8 student
From the 100 young people who filled out feedback forms, 34 of them were interested in exploring the Big Questions at lunchtimes, which we will begin after half term.
Vic Sekasi is the Furness Deanery Network Youth Church Leader
[You can find out more about the prayer activities Vic mentions in the Resources section of the website.]