Sanctum at Thurstable – Mon & Tues

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This week we’re in Thurstable School, Tiptree running Sanctum there for the second year. This is our thirteenth Sanctum which you’d think would mean we’ve got it pretty much sussed by now…

We’re back in the same room that we had last year, a former Youth Club that’s part of the school site next to the dining room and which would normally be the Year 7 break and lunchtime area (more on this later!) We’ve decided to go for fewer activities, just nine, but to put more effort into theming the room. This has included suspending netting from the ceiling using magnets to hold it to the light fittings. Improvisation is definitely a key skill for a Prayer Space in School practitioner! We’ve also added our own lighting which has helped transform the space into a much softer venue, including curios like the orange ribbon and battery led lights in the glass bowl shown above.

Our timetable is pretty intense. From Monday breaktime to Friday lunchtime we have just two lessons off and given that we’re open to visitors at break and lunchtime this makes for a long day. In compensation the Thurstable school lunches (which are being provided for us) must rate as some of the best in the country as they employ their own chef and source most of their ingredients locally.

One thing we’re struggling with this time is the slightly ‘hyper’ behaviour of the Year 7’s, many of whom seem to think the aim is to get round all the activities as quickly as possible but then run out of things to do and struggle to work out what it is they’ve just done. One issue is that this being their break time social space  they’re used to letting off steam here and though our theming of the venue often produces “wow” comments it’s still a space they feel they own. We’re managing break and lunchtime numbers very tightly, a maximum of 15 at any time, which seems to be controlling the randomness and noise and allowing those in Sanctum to engage with it appropriately. Lessons are being handled by splitting groups into 2 and having half visit for each half of the lesson. Having 30 students in at once for an hour would be a fascinating social/educational experiement but I fear for what would happen and whether they’d get anything meaningful from the experience.

The Year 8’s and Year 9’s, on the other hand, have been amazing. Both groups remember last year very positively and are delighted to be back and to try the new activities. Some comment that they miss the ‘quiet tent’ with the bean bags, but we decided, for the first time in 12 Sanctum’s, to leave this out as last year it had been a constant source of noise and crowd control issues. Instead we’re encouraging them to see the whole room as a quiet space which many seem to be able to connect with.

Feedback from classes post-visit is coming in and is proving to be very positive. Once again the “Forgiveness” activity is coming up as the most popular and most helpful, followed by the Identity activity. Being forgiven and knowing how God sees you. Could you come away having discovered anything better?

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