On Thursday evening seven of us got together to do some more work on setting up prayer rooms in schools. Those present included representatives from CYO, Colchester Prayer Net and the Colchester Boiler Room Community. We shared a meal together, prayed and dived into further thinking about this interesting possibility.
I’ve asked three secondary schools (11’s – 16’s) about the idea so far and all have expressed interest – in one I was able to have a detailed meeting with one of the deputy head teachers. A school prayer room would contribute to part of the Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural development goals and would be open to students on a voluntary basis during the school day. Following my meetings with staff to suggest the idea I’d put together a short proposal which explains the concept, gives an outline of how it would run and covers basic practical details. This proposal, which also includes information about how it integrates with SMSC development has been sent to schools and our meeting was to expand this into a working document.
Part of our discussion was to establish how ‘directed’ the experience would be and how much we’d leave it to students to interpret and interact for themselves. There is a subtle balance here. We genuinely want young people to be able to explore prayer in their own way in a safe environment. But we also recognise that for many, some kind of directed interaction will be helpful in allowing them to engage with the practice of prayer, so a number of these activities will be available for them to use them as a ‘way in’. Ultimately, we hope that they will be able to experience something of the presence of God, find a way of expressing their longings, hopes and dreams for themselves and the world and learn how to pray in their own way, even when there isn’t a prayer room around.
Interestingly, this year’s spirituality survey in schools reveals that about 50% of young people agree with the statement, "There have been times when I have prayed." Sadly, only 22% think prayer makes a difference, outweighed by the 32% who think it doesn’t! But hey… it’s not a bad place to start from.
What may come of this seems to be firmly in the hands of God. There are simple practical things to sort out, such as what space may be available for a whole week in school – tough in these crowded times (officially, there are no spare spaces in any Colchester secondary school.) But thus far we sense an opportunity, an open door, to engage young people in the practice of prayer within a school environment.