Our week running Sanctum at Thurstable School in Tiptree has been a very ‘full’ experience in all sorts of ways with over 500 students visiting, some returning a couple of times.
Classes have ranged from chatty to silent and from totally engaged to permanently distracted in almost every combination! But we’ve had no real issues with behaviour beyond a few inappropriate posts on the Sorry activity and the Prayer Wall which we quickly, and subtly, removed. On one ocasion I was standing with a group of Year 9 boys who had posted some very disrespectful ‘prayers’ on the prayer wall and while they were still there I was able to so discreetly remove them that one lad was totally confused when he tried to show his mate his ‘prayers’, as they’d disappeared! Early on in the week we had one of our mp3 players stolen (it was at the activity when they finished but not when they left). The staff were outstanding in following this up immediately with this class, though the mp3 player was never found.
We’ve been blessed with great support from local church leaders and friends who have been warm and welcoming to the young people as well as getting totally stuck into running some of the activities. One of the new ones which has worked so well is what we call “Character”. Students choose two character cards from a face down set which they then turn over one at a time as a discussion starter about how their life is and how they’d like to develop. (e.g. Joy, Kindness, Strength, Responsibility…) Time and again students turned up a card that exactly matched their situation resulting in a conversation that brought insight and clarity to them.
My colleague Amy and I watched one girl leaving the Identity activity with the biggest smile you’ve ever seen on her face, declaring that it was “really good!” “Really good” doesn’t begin to describe the boost to her confidence the activity had inspired – you had to see that smile.
We’ve had the usual crop of heartbreaking glimpses of tragic home lives and relationships through the Sorry activity (the example below continues on the other side) and the Prayer Wall. And it was wonderful to see Japan literally covered in prayer.
I was talking to a group of girls at the Prayer Wall when one of them showed me her prayer, for her dad who has arthritis and is in constant pain. I’d love to have prayed with her for her dad there and then, but this wouldn’t have been appropriate. Instead I said to her, “In that case my prayer is that your prayer will be answered.” She seemed incredibly grateful.
There have also been some wonderful thank you’s posted on the very overcrowded “thankful” activity.
The response from staff, in particular the senior staff, has been wonderful, not least because Sanctum has followed immediately after the Beloved course here this term. Inevitably conversation turns to other ways we could be involved, bringing into the life of the school and its students the blend of therapeutc benefit and spiritual development that Sanctum embodies in a more regular and sustainable way. As ever, I have a mixture of new insights and unanswered questions about how we continue to develop Sanctum. However, after what I thought might be a difficult week turned out to be glorious, I’m looking forward to the next three in the summer term.
If you’re interested in running something like Sanctum, check out Prayer Spaces in Schools