Christmas Prayer Space, St Peter’s School
Silently, o silently, we waited. The library, now decorated and filled with twinkling lights, colourful materials, little parcels and creative activities, stood waiting for children to fill it with wonder. The stage was set; the drama was yet to begin.
When they did come, a peace filled the space. Joyful retellings of the first Christmas story led to deep and profound reflections upon hopes and dreams, thanks, forgiveness, freedom, and big questions.
This was the first prayer space that I’d run since 2015. Now, known as ‘Reverend Joe’ by the school pupils, the story of Christmas opened up a possibility to create a prayer space in the local school. I couldn’t help but have tears in my eyes when, in the first lesson, the children just got up, explored the room, and opened their hearts to prayer, something I’ve been privileged to see so many times in many other schools, and still I’m amazed at children’s ability, hunger even, to jump in at the deep end when it comes to prayer and wrestling their hopes and questions with God.
‘why did you create the world?’ ‘how could you trust Mary to look after Jesus?’ ‘are you real?’ ‘are you ok?’ ‘why do you make me happy?’ ‘can you visit me please? I live at...’
At a place to make room for hope, some boys built a homeless shelter with duplo, because they want hope for the homeless. Many made Christmas joy cards for Russia. For most, the world’s problems are bound up with a deep concern about the environment and welfare for wildlife, and a longing to help.
It was truly humbling. I loved it. There is something truly remarkable about prayer spaces in schools. And, once we had settled the fact that God and Santa are not the same, the children loved it too.
Not only are prayer spaces excellent for education, values, and all aspects of pastoral care in school life, they give a genuine and straight forward opportunity to do something of eternal worth, the chance to pray. And that changes things. It’s then that we realise the meaning of the word Emmanuel is as relevant today as it was that first Christmas. It does not mean, God was with us, it means, God is with us. And I can’t think of a more wondrous gift to be given.
Joe Knight, Vicar