Well, it's been quite a week with students making over 500 visits to Sanctum in lessons, break time and lunch time. By the end of the week we were getting to know some regulars who kept returning to spend time in the room.
The format of the week has been entirely new to us, with groups coming in as part of their RE lessons. These groups were typically of about 14 students (half a class) spending half an hour in the room which meant that each of them could only do a few of the activities. Half way through the lesson they would swap with the other half of the class. This format worked really well because the room was never crowded, and it left most of them wanting more, which meant they came back in break or lunch time.
What have been the highlights? For me its the stories of change that have been shared by students at the end of the lessons where we allowed 5 minutes or so of discussion. After asking which were their favourite activities we invited them to say why. Time and time again, unprompted by us or by others, many of them would tell how an activity had really helped them. At the end of one lesson, as the rest of the team were leading the feedback time, I jotted down a few of the students' comments;
I thought it would be quite religious, but it’s actually about you and your own experiences
The questions around the room are about the sorts of things you ask yourself every day
Being here gives you a chance to express how you feel
It was very spiritually themed so it lets you open up that side of yourself
Boys have admitted to forgiving people, acknowledging things they've done wrong that were, to use their own words, like a weight on their shoulders and experiencing a real and tangible peace. On one occasion I asked them if any of the activities feel, to them, like they imagine prayer would be like and several of them immediately pointed to a number of the activities and agreed strongly.
If the week has been exciting, it has also been exhausting, and I am indebted to the team of ever willing volunteers who helped to make it all happen. After lunch Ben, Matt and I dismantled Sanctum and squeezed it all into my car leaving the room, once again, an RE classroom. We'll miss these boys (and the 6th form girls) and I have a feeling they'll miss us and Sanctum. But sometimes, and particularly when you're young, you don't really know how much you appreciated something until it's gone. It is my hope and prayer that many of these students will, next week, remember the experience and reflect once again on their lives and the whisper of God who calls to them through the diversity of life's experiences that Sanctum taps into.
Sanctum on wheels – yes… all this just about fits into my car!