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“A huge thank you for all your time and enthusiasm in creating an amazing space for the children to reflect and talk to God in different ways. We have had brilliant feedback from staff and children alike, saying how much they got out of it and how valuable it was to have the time and space to quietly reflect. Rarely have I seen such a demand from staff for a ‘repeat’ event, we would love to have you and the prayer spaces back.”Headteacher (Hampshire)

'Kia Inoi Tatou' - Easter Prayer Space in New Zealand

Hannah writes: "A week before Easter I facilitated the fourth prayer space at the primary school here in New Zealand where I am chaplain. We call the events ‘Kia Inoi Tatou’ – a Te Reo Maori phrase meaning ‘let’s pray’. 

Students came to visit the hall in groups of two classes over a day and a half. We used the school hall and had ten activities set up there.

As we did at Christmas last year, we sang the children in as they arrived, with a song especially written for our prayer spaces. Some children had beautiful smiles on their faces as they came in.

We read to the children, using the simplified version of the wonderful ‘Tale of the Three Trees’ and had the pictures up on a PowerPoint on a big screen.' The children were almost all peaceful and attentive as they were read to. When the children from our special needs class came, they were entirely quiet and still. Their teachers commented with amazement, saying, ‘they are never like this!’

I then sent the children off to an initial activity in groups, after which they were free to move around the hall and choose their remaining activities. One new thing I did this time was to ask someone to count the children while I read and to tell me how many children I needed to put in each group – a small thing but so much better delegated!

We had a mix of activities – old favourites (jumping for joy, fizzy forgiveness, plasma balls) and also a social justice activity called ‘in their shoes’. This involved thinking about those less fortunate than ourselves, which was particularly poignant as Cyclone Pam had caused so much destruction in nearby Vanuatu, the week before our prayer space. The Be Still tent was popular as ever and makes me wonder again about replicating something like it - a lunchtime quiet space perhaps…

'The children go home and talk about this with their families. They are activities that the children can adapt and use at home too'.

I tried something new at the end of the sessions with the older children (8-10 year olds). I gave them an evaluation card and encouraged the children to reflect on something that had stood out to them in the prayer space – something they did, heard or saw. They then wrote this down. Then I encouraged the children to think about anything they would like to remember/do differently because of their experience. 

‘Today I am happy to be at Kia Inoi Tatou with my friends, learning about God and being happy and be sorry for doing things I done to other people’.

‘Today I wrote a letter to God. I would like to change my feelings. I prayed to him to help me on my way through life’.

‘Today I feel sorry for the homeless, sick and the people who have no parents. I’ll never forget to help those people’.

And ‘Today I rested in the rest home’ (Be Still tent!) 

I also gave the teachers an evaluation form, with the hope of receiving some feedback on what impact the prayer spaces are having on the life and soul of the school community. Comments included:

‘The children go home and talk about this with their families. They are activities that the children can adapt and use at home too’. 

The prayer space ‘reminds children that they are loved by God. It teaches forgiveness, love, thinking about our own actions & thinking of others’. 

‘Several of my junior children were really talkative/serious about the forgiveness activity where they watched the Berocca dissolve’.

In closing, a lasting image for me is of my wonderful team of volunteers after pack up, talking together and saying their farewells. Together we represent 3 different towns and 7 different churches.

Hannah is a primary school chaplain in New Zealand

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Posted on 28th April 2015

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