Sanctum at Colchester Sixth Form College – Friday

Sanctum finished at the Sixth Form College on Friday. The overwhelming response has been positive with comments like “Very helpful. Really makes you think about life” and “Gave a good insight into who I am and who I want to be” as well as quite a few “inspirational”, “beautiful” and “amazing!”

Over 225 students took part – this we know from a count up of all those who did the dressing up activity at the beginning and had a photo taken. These are now displayed on the Chaplaincy notice board:

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Quite a few students came back to talk more or to do activities again and some popped in for a look without going for the whole “Journey of Life” thing.

So what have we learned?

DSC_0903 Chaplaincy and Sanctum. The link with Chaplaincy, in the person of Kathryn who works for us, has been of immense value. Not only has her presence in the college beforehand created a positive expectation around Sanctum, but also Sanctum has enlarged her role and students’ awareness of her. Each of these two aspects of our work have been enhanced and supportet by the other.

Space isn’t an issue! The limited space on the concourse meant we had to consider carefully what activities we would include. Focussing around just six activities and linking them to the theme “Jouney of life” created a very unified message and an obvious path or flow to the experience. It helped that, unlike in school, we didn’t have vast numbers arriving simultaneously although we did have two lesson groups of 15 which was just about the maximum capacity for Sanctum.

Other space. One of the big surprises was how many people used the quiet room which had been beautifully themed but was otherwise left for people to engage with in their own way. It helped that a number of Christians from the college helped set up the room and then made use of it throughout the week.

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This was the first time the Christian students had identified the room as somewhere they could pray (it’s available at any time, but is rather dull and unattractive!) and it’s clear that others also ventured into the quiet room, even if some of their contributions were less than respectful. Some editorial intervention had taken place throughout the week to ensure that what was expressed was appropriate to the context of the room. There was such a strong feeling about the room remaining available in its ‘prayer room’ format that we extended this part of Sanctum for another week.

DSC_0876 An obvious ‘journey’. Providing an obvious starting point (the photo and the named luggage tag) and a clear end point (choosing three from the 21 character values) gave us a much stronger opportunity to talk to students about their lives, their hopes and the idea of a God who is there for them. The team, and Kathryn in particular, had some amazing and in depth conversations with students.
The flip side of all this is that once they’d had their conversation about character and completed their luggage tag it pretty much felt like they’d “done” Sanctum and didn’t need to return. Some did though, and others came back with friends who they’d persuaded to do it.

The value of personal conversations. The final activity, selecting three character values that you hope to be known by in several years time, provided an awesome opportunity to talk in more depth with students. In many ways this was the most significant aspect of the week. In schools, when dealing with larger numbers, this degree of one to one conversation is much harder to provide for, but this is something we’d like to try to offer in the future.

The presence of Snactum was warmly welcomed by staff up to and including the Principal and we expect to be able to repeat this next year. This was our third year here and it felt as though we’d finally discovered the best way of running Sanctum in the college. And that’s one of the fascinating challenges with Prayer Spaces in Schools, no two are the same and there’s always something new to learn because each is a partnership between the school (college) and the team delivering it.

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