Yesterday 15 of us got together for the first round table gathering of people involved in running Prayer Spaces in Schools. This embryonic movement has been growing exponentially over the last two years. In 2008 there were 6 Prayer Spaces in Schools, of which we ran two. In 2009 there were 12 and this year so far we’re up to 40, so this is definitely a rapidly expanding area of work with schools.
We spent the first part of the day hearing from everyone about the Prayer Spaces they had been running and gaining a bigger picture of what this movement looks like. There is work happening in Primary Schools, Secondary Schools and Sixth Form Colleges. Some are led by teachers, with help from visitors, some led by teams of visitors from groups of churches or organisations like ours (CYO) and some are student led. In the main there have been two main sets of resources from which people have drawn ideas and inspiration; Orison and the resource pack put together by Phil Togwell which draws heavily on the material we developed here for Sanctum. Beyond this people are creating, adapting and producing their own resources which will eventually find their way back into the repository of ideas that we are building to share.
We spent some time in two groups looking at how we develop this network. The balance we’re trying to strike is to bring some sort of quality control without being controlling. Working within the context of education is a responsibility we take very seriously, so we want to get this right. We are already consulting with education professionals and are part-way towards developing a range of documents which set out the educational basis for Prayer Rooms in Schools and their links to national guidance documents. But our heart is to facilitate, not control or organise. Our instinct is to share ideas and build a network that sustains this as a movement, rather than squeezing it into the constricting shape of an organisation.
In the other group we talked about the theology of Prayer Spaces in Schools. A theology that embraces the whole of life (that popular word, holistic!), that reflects the values of the Kingdom, that understands the value of setting aside space for prayer, that models communication with God, that emphasises the value of relationship. All of this, in a way that respects the faith position of the students and the responses they make, whilst giving them opportunity to reflect and take further steps in their spiritual journey.
Towards the end of the day we individually looked at the strengths, weaknesses, challenges and opportunities that face us as Prayer Spaces in Schools develops in the coming months before sharing and discussing them. To end we prayed for this emerging movement, for young people and for all those involved at whatever level.
If you’d like to know more about Prayer Spaces in Schools do email us: firstname.lastname@example.org