And so to Friday which was much like the other four days, though perhaps a little busier – I don’t remember many breaks from guiding people through the activities. There were quite a few people who came back to chat, some of whom brought friends with them because they’d found it so helpful they wanted their friend to do it too.
In the end we don’t know how many people took part because deciding on a threshold of involvement is tricky (a brief conversation, doing one activity, doing all the activities…) and we’re more interested in the quality of our engagement with the students than sheer numbers. Between the two extremes which would have caused us concern, no-one taking part or the space being too crowded to function effectively for participants, I’d say we were fairly busy most of the time. Qualitatively, the vast majority of people said that Sanctum had helped them, most people saying that it had enabled them to think about life in a deeper way and that they recognised this was both rare and something they should do more often. From our conversations with participants we know that many had mini ‘revelatory’ moments when they discovered something profound about what drives them, or experienced greater clarity about their personality, character, abilities or motivations.
This year’s sanctum at the Sixth Form College deliberately focused on the issue of who we’re becoming over what kind of job/salary/lifestyle we aspire to and was designed to stimulate discussion, more so than prayer. Maybe this raises a few questions.
Is it a prayer room? Strictly speaking, I don’t think so, though the college prayer room, in another building, was also available as part of the Sanctum week. It certainly stimulated much personal reflection, for some moments of revelation and among a few, an occasional tear. Prayer is so much more than writing a request on a post-it note – was God speaking..? I believe so, whether he was acknowledged publicly or not.
Was it worth doing? Yes, several hundred times over. It’s difficult to put into words the experience of seeing a young person ‘come alive’ as they see, perhaps for the first time, how amazing they are, or find their dreams and motivations for the future become clear, or leave with a sense of peace that they haven’t had for quite a while. Many thanked us because their time in Sanctum had made a profound impact on them.
Everything is spiritual. During the week sanctum helped hundreds of students think about or confront key issues – having the right priorities; not losing your soul to the world; how to find peace; trusting that there is hope and a future. At the very least these issues are spiritual – Christians would also say they are Biblical. We talked about all of life and many people acknowledged that this stuff is vital but, sadly, hardly spoken of.
Finally, Sanctum has increased awareness among students of chaplaincy within the college and we look forward to continuing some of the conversations started last week.