In a packed programme today we saw about 175 students for five lessons, break time and lunch time. Just before lunch two mid-day assistants came in and spent about 20 minutes thoughtfully engaged in several of the stations. Then, during the last lesson, four sixth formers came in for about half an hour each.
Today’s surprise was the response to the mirrors activity. People are encouraged to look at their own reflection and read to themselves the affirming verses from the Bible written on the mirrors. In particular this seemed to have a profound effect on Year 7 boys, not that girls weren’t also moved by it. Quite a few people spent proper time reading each of the verses thoughtfully and repeatedly. Comments drifted out of this corner, “Wow!”, “That’s cool.” “That’s sweet!” I stood nearby and after groups had responded in this way was able to have a conversation about how we often see ourselves and the impact reading these affirming statements had had on these young people. They were nearly all overwhelmed, surprised and encouraged by the idea of reading something positive about themselves when they look in the mirror. When I told them these were words from the Bible, and that they express what we believe God feels about them, many were amazed.
Later, in the 5 minute debrief at the end of a half lesson in Sanctum, a group of Year 9 students talked about the experience.
- “It’s a magical place that helps you.”
- “I managed to think things through that I can’t when my life is so busy.”
- “I was able to say sorry to someone that I won’t be able to see face to face.”
One of the things about running Sanctum is that it really does need a team of three or more just to keep up with ‘curating’ the whole experience. Introducing activities; chatting to students; resetting MP3 players left by people who can’t concentrate for 3 minutes; tidying paper, pens, pins, post-its and instruction cards; checking and, on rare occasions, removing inappropriate contributions – all of this becomes a rhythm of attention, action and care. But the heart of Sanctum is the amazing conversations we’re able to have with students about so many aspects of our faith, inspired by one or other of the many and varied activities.
Our Year 11’s were back again today, so the informal lunchtime theology continued over the “Big Questions” table. We love them. I’m praying that we may be able to pray with them in some meaningful way before the week is over.