Prayer Spaces in Schools is a movement that is growing fast. This year, to better serve the many people who are now running, or planning to run, prayer spaces in schools, we ran conferences in London, Leeds and Edinburgh.
In London about 120 people gathered once again in the crypt of St. James’ Church, Clerkenwell. Bill Cahusac from HTB opened the day bringing a Biblical perspective to his experience of prayer spaces and then Phil Togwell spoke about where we’ve got to and why this is important, inspired in part by this challenge from “The Wounded Healer” by Henri Nouwen:
￼“I am afraid that in a few decades the church will be accused of having failed at it’s most basic task, offering people creative ways to communicate with the source of life.”
Helen McGeoch from Cheltenham told the story of a first prayer space in a local school which offered many helpful tips and insights into the practicalities and the negotiation required to make a good start with a school. Developing this theme we were pleased to welcome David Howell, youth work consultant and adviser to schoolswork.co.uk on the new schools work qualification, who explained from the perspective of education “How do prayer spaces serve schools.” In the afternoon practical workshops covered creating resources for spiritual development, planning a first prayer space, chaplaincy and permanent prayer spaces.
A week later and we were in Leeds for something of a re-run of the programme and, in spite of early doubts, over 90 people turned up. This time we were inspired from Scripture by Sam Corley, Canon Residentiary of Bradford Cathedral who has been instrumental in promoting prayer spaces in his area. The story of a first prayer space came from Louise Hargreaves who came to the London conference last year and has since done an amazing job of helping to make prayer part of the life of her children’s school.
This time our educational input came from Lat Blaylock, editor of RE Today who helped us explore the question, “Is it possible to serve the agenda of the school and the agenda of the Christian community together?” Lat took us through an overview of a theology of creation, humanity, incarnation and world faith encouraging us to see God’s big picture helped by images of artwork from students.
Finally, on Monday Edinburgh hosted the third day conference with over 40 people from all over Scotland.
These conferences have surprised us not only with the numbers turning up but also the high proportion of those attending (over 70%) who have yet to run their first prayer space. Knowing how many of those who came last year have since run one or more prayer spaces suggests that in the coming year we’ll see at least another doubling in the number of prayer spaces in schools. When 24/7 Prayer started back in 1999 the simple vision was ￼“to turn the tide in youth culture…” This certainly feels like part of a fulfilment of that vision.
Many of the talks were recorded. Please see the Prayer Spaces in Schools web site for more info.