"It has been one of the most encouraging things we have done as a church in the last few years."
Our prayer space went really well, it has been one of the most encouraging things we have done as a church in the last few years.
200+ pupils in the school came to use the prayer space during the week, with half hour slots for each group. Lots of the teachers and teaching assistants came in too and we had some very positive feedback about their experience of the space.
Our prayer space happened in the outdoor classroom. The room was filled with things to look at and do, giving pupils space to pause and reflect in the middle of the busy school day. There was a quiet tent, with beanbags and fairy lights, where we encouraged them just to “be still”. In another corner we focused on identity, with space to make a fingerprint and draw ourselves, remembering that we are all unique and valuable. We thought about the world using an inflatable globe, and the pupils made houses from Lego and card while they remembered people who had lost their homes in the recent cyclone in southern Africa. And outside, pupils could imagine “blowing their worries away” or giving them to God, as they blew bubbles on the school field.
Each class came in in small groups, using the space however they wanted for half an hour at a time. Lots of the pupils spent time writing their prayers and thoughts on a leaf for our “prayer tree”, and the Lego was very popular. Some just wanted to lie on a squishy cushion in the tent, while others added to our village of paper houses on the windowsill. The outdoor classroom is a little way from the main building, on the edge of the field and overlooking the pond – it felt like the perfect place to be peaceful and take a few minutes out of the school day, and one pupil said “I feel like I don’t want to leave!”
One member of staff said, “The Prayer Space was a peaceful experience for the children. The activities were interesting and meaningful, leading to lots of quiet discussion and thought”. Many of the children felt they could be open and reflect on their feelings and worries in the Prayer Space, and they all took something different from their time in the room: some left with comments like “I felt calm and relaxed”, and others that they were “excited and amazed”!
The head teacher is keen for us to come back and do a prayer space again! She felt that the space helped with children’s well-being and appreciated having a snapshot of how they had responded to it.
I was so encouraged by how the pupils engaged with the space, all of them joining in and choosing activities, and many of them writing open and personal prayers on our prayer tree leaves. Lots of them mentioned never having done anything like this before during our feedback times at the end of each session, and several said that it was the first time that they had ever prayed. We weren’t sure how the space would work in engaging the littlest four year olds right up to the 11 year olds, but it did have something for all of them and we only needed to slightly adjust some of the activities for the younger groups.
One teacher said:
“As soon as the class entered the peace and beauty of the prayer space, eyes widened and shoulders relaxed. The children were instantly engaged with the many different opportunities for prayer and self expression. Many chose to focus on others and found it incredibly therapeutic to lift up those who were on their hearts by hanging personalised leaves on the prayer tree. Others enjoyed the opportunity to think about how loved and special they are as they took the time to draw self portraits and to study their unique thumbprints. The only problem we had was persuading the children to leave! Having time to be thoughtful and prayerful really stirred something for Class 4 and every child expressed their desire to repeat the experience again. Thank you to everyone involved for the obvious effort and care that had gone in to bringing the prayer space to Stoke Holy Cross.”
CATHRYN BAKER, Prayer Space Host