Saturday, 20 July 2024

Prayer Spaces in Schools

Last year Gracehill Congregation was approached by Eve McMullan, the local Scripture Union Schools worker to see if we would host a Prayer Space for children at Gracehill Primary School. Like many schools Gracehill PS did not have enough spare room to host this in their own premises. Church Committee was happy for the Church to be used for this and we were intrigued to see how it would turn out.

Prayer Spaces in Schools has become an outworking of the 24/7 Prayer Movement and is now a really popular work in schools. The idea is to make space for creative reflection and prayer in imaginative ways. Prayer Spaces have been used in over 30 nations and over one million children and young people have participated in them. So, Gracehill was not doing anything new but following in an already well thought out path.

The Church was thought to be a better venue than the hall because the hall is used all through the week and it could be too disruptive to block its use for a number of days. The Church was also a logical place to encourage prayer!

So, the planning began - Eve planned the prayer stations and gathered together the items she would need, and just as importantly she asked people to pray and to volunteer as helpers during the three days the Prayer Spaces would be open. Teachers in school were very keen for the children to come along so a rota was organised for the classes to come into the Church - that is 14 classes in a two-form entry school and each class having around 30 children.

The Prayer Spaces were set up as prayer stations, places to reflect on what children wanted to give thanks for, what they were worried about, places in the world that they had family or had heard about on the news. Each station had an explanatory notice which explained the station and what the children could do at that place - there was a Be Still Corner where they could just sit and reflect with soft lighting, a Comfort Blanket area where they could wrap a weighted blanket around them and say a prayer for those who were feeling frightened in the world, a world map where they could put post it notes with short prayers or names of family who lived there, a hope rope where they could untie knots and pray that God would untie the worry knots in their lives and a Tent of Dreams amongst a number of other stations.

The children came into the Church and Eve explained to them a bit about the stations and what prayer was and she also noted that they did not have to pray, they could just think about the situations and issues as well. So, the event was not about proselytizing but about allowing the children space to connect with the issues that affected them in a spiritual way and giving them permission to pray in new ways. I volunteered at the World Map and was amazed at the knowledge that the children had and how widespread their families were.

The children were totally engaged for the time that they were in Church and so well behaved - they respected the opportunity that had been given to them. The teachers were delighted with the children's responses and with the feedback that they got from the children on return to school. We collected up some of the children's responses 'The whole prayer space made me feel happy'; 'all the activities helped me learn of the different ways we can pray to God'; 'a prayer always means something'; 'I liked the knots of fear, it did make me calm and focus on that not my fears'; 'I feel more relaxed about talking to God'; 'prayer is important because it lets you talk to God and he can help you'.

It just so happened that at the end of the week I was scheduled to go into Gracehill Primary School to take Assembly. I used Jeremiah 33:3 God's telephone number and talked about how we can talk to God and how he listens to us. I gained lots of positive feedback from the children about the Prayer Spaces and we ended the assembly with a physical prayer version of St Patrick's breastplate.

I would love to share my experience with anyone who is interested in helping with or organising a Prayer Space in a school or for their own Church youth group. It is a great way to connect with God and with the young people around us.

Sr Sarah Groves

Minister of Gracehill Moravian Church

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Church House is the Headquarters of the Moravian Church in the British Province and is located in London at:
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