Prayer Spaces in Schools autumn conferences

Prayer Spaces in Schools conference

The number of prayer spaces happening in schools and colleges continues to grow exponentially with over 500 (that we know of) in the last five years. Some people have run loads, some are just setting out. In that time we’ve also connected with many people in the field of education who are enthusiastic about the place prayer spaces can play in the life of schools and who have expertise to share with prayer space practitioners.

That’s why this year Prayer Spaces in Schools is running two slightly different conferences in four locations.

The Development Days in London (Mon 30 Sep) and Leeds (Tue 1 Oct) are for those who have run a few prayer spaces and will feature a series of short talks followed by discussion on:

– spiritual development of children and young people
– SMSC
– Christian schoolswork trends and opportunities
– chaplaincy
– prayer spaces and pastoral care
– working in a multi-faith context.

The day conferences in Bristol (Thu 24 Oct) and Edinburgh (Sat 9 Nov) are for those who are thinking of running their first prayer space or are looking for new ideas and resources and will have a range of practical workshops from people with experience of running prayer spaces.

– how to host a prayer space
– creating prayer activities
– theology and values of prayer spaces
– prayer spaces in primary and secondary schools
– what next? chaplaincy and permanent prayer spaces

All the info and links to book in are here.

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Indian Summer

In mid-April my mum was diagnosed with cancer, including multiple brain tumours, which robbed her of most of her speech and language capacity as well as much right-side motor function. For a while, drug treatment all but neutralised the impact of the tumours restoring nearly all of her lost capabilities and enabling her to live a full and active life. During that time we all made the most of the opportunities we had to be with her. We knew, however, that my mum’s time was limited and that we had been given but a few week’s grace, an Indian Summer in the closing season of her life.
This poem was written to capture a little of the impact of those fleeting weeks.

Indian Summer

We have been blessed with an Indian summer,
When the threat of winter’s chill
Is stayed by a brightness and warmth
That lasts beyond this season’s end.

Its extended glow has all but hidden winter’s call.
Energy reinvigorated, plans revisited, life revitalised
Summer has come back for one last shout
To be seized one last time.

We have wrapped ourselves in late adventures.
We have savoured again long familiar journeys.
We have laughed and shared stories and rested
In the company of friends.

And now, suddenly, like the turning of the year
Autumn has come.
And in its grip, capacity and capability fall away noiselessly,
Green leaves now brown in autumn’s low sun.

Through shortening days and lengthening shadows
We hold on to light and life and love.
For we know
Winter is coming.

But we have been blessed
With an Indian summer.

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GO4 Market Café

Go4 café posterThe GO4 Enterprises Market Café opened just over a month ago in Holy Trinity Church (one of the oldest buildings in Colchester, parts of which date back to about 1000AD) and is an amazing place full of craft, art, vintage stuff and a great café.

I popped in an bumped into the local legend that is Peter Hope who is the mastermind behind getting the market café going and also a host of other projects that make a real difference to young people under the GO4 Enterprises banner. GO4 Enterprises is a community based social enterprise working to provide employment, training and personal development through continual mentoring and support of young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs).

There’s a real buzz of life about the place and it’s a tribute to Pete’s networking skills that he’s got such a great range of traders based there. In the centre is space for pop-up stalls so there’s also that sense of intrigue about what you might find each time you’re in.

CO4 cafe traders

The café uses locally sourced food supported by Platform 2 Catering (which is another brilliant idea!) and the coffee is highly recommended. When I was in for a meeting with a friend there were just a few people in the café space but this quickly filled up. There were also a few people sitting out at the tables in the entrance pathway.

I live in a town with an over-abundance of corporate coffee chain outlets each proclaiming their individuality yet looking roughly the same and the prospect of meeting people in any of them somehow feels instantly boring. So the GO4 Market café is a stand out winner for me with its unique venue, interest and quality food & drink.

And it’s making a difference, a real difference, in the lives of young people.

GO4 market café

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A book about one school’s prayer space

iNSPiRE

Way back in early December Hope Church here in Colchester ran iNSPiRE, a prayer space in a local CofE Primary School where they work regularly. As a way of recording the week and feeding back to the school one of the team created a book using online publishing. This is such a lovely reminder for the school of what was a great week in the lives of many pupils. They’ve since run another iNSPiRE week at the school.

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Borderlands

Borderlands

Borderlands, a photo by timabbott on Flickr.

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Young People and Loss

twup_logoOn Monday we hosted a training day led by Pete English from This Way Up, a charity that specialises in supporting young people through bereavement and loss. So many of the young people we work with today have experienced some kind of significant loss in their lives, whether the death of a parent, relative or friend, the separation of their parents, change of school or any number of other events. These experiences of loss impact on the already turbulent world of adolescent development and manifest themselves in all sorts of ways.

Because we frequently come across young people who are trying to cope with loss we wanted to increase our knowledge and skills in this area. As well as the CYO team we’d opened up the day to others working in education which drew in primary and secondary school teachers, youth workers and those working in the alternative education sector. Pete’s wisdom, experience, case studies and gentle manner allied to the huge range of practical experience in the room made for a fascinating day of learning which we can immediately apply in our work.

Here are just a few of the resources mentioned during the day that come recommended and which you might find helpful:

The Little Book of Bereavement for Schools – Ian Gilbert with William, Olivia and Phoebe Gilbert

Blame My Brain : the amazing teenage brain revealed – Nicola Morgan

Teenagers and Attachment: Helping Adolescents Engage with Life and Learning – Andrea Perry (editor)

Draw on Your Emotions – Sunderland & Engleheart

Supporting Young People Through Parental Break-up – Tomblin & English

and finally, Lost and Found, a course by This Way Up for young people in secondary schools for which youth, family and care workers can can be trained as facilitators.

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Memorise a few vital numbers

Low batteryOver the course of one day recently I met three people who probably wish they had memorised a few vital phone numbers. The first was someone who had been out clearing snow for their neighbour when they got locked out of their own house, their mobile and keys being inside. The second was using a back up phone as their main one had, er, dropped into the loo. And the third was out in town and had run out of battery power. What did they do? (Answers at the end.)

We don’t have to remember numbers because our phones remember for us. But if something happened to your mobile phone and you needed to get a message through, who would you call and how would you find their number? Remembering numbers might not be your thing, but memorising just two or three key contacts could come in very handy. It’s probably best to select people who generally have their phone with them and on, rather than the ones who never answer (you know who they are). If there are more than two or three that might be good options, try memorising the easiest ones first. You could also choose to dial manually the numbers you want to remember. Sometimes it’s easier to memorise the pattern rather than the numbers. You may never need to dial these numbers from memory, but…

What did the three people do?

  • The first one had to use a neighbour’s computer to search for contact details to phone another key holder to return home.
  • The second one had to wait until at work where a colleague was able to find the vital numbers.
  • The third couldn’t remember any numbers accurately and, quite by chance, a friend walked past and was able to help out.
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Big questions and small beginnings at Colchester Institute

Big questions

Colchester Institute provides further education, vocational training and higher education to degree level for people from across the north east Essex area and beyond. This week we were involved at the huge Colchester campus as part of their Equality and Diversity week. We’d been asked to run an activity in one of the public areas for two days that would get students thinking about faith in a way that would be accessible to those with any or no faith. We chose one of the activities from Sanctum, our prayer space for schools, that invites people to think about their big questions – “If God did exist, what would you ask?”

The response of students and staff was magnificent!! The location was ideal, being at an intersection of corridors on a major through route so lots of people passed by, paused and contributed. We were also right next to one of the cafeterias which made it easy to wander among the tables offering question cards and handing out lollies to students and often stopping for a chat about the ultimate questions raised by the activity.

In just two short days there were some great moments. So many conversations started about God, most of which we could hear continuing after we’d moved on. Students who recognised us from our work in schools and wanted to reconnect. Then there was the group of three girls on a musical theatre course – one a Christian, one an agnostic and the other a self-professed atheist who loves talking about faith and the big questions of life. They came back several times. And the brief but meaningful conversation with a girl whose mum and gran had died recently who chatted to one of the team who had just lost her gran.

In the midst of the predictable busyness we found a warm welcome. This is the first time we’ve done anything here and this simple activity created a real buzz of interest. What did we learn?

  • The smallest opportunity is infinitely greater than doing nothing. It would have been easy to have turned it down for a whole variety of reasons to do with scale, or length of time, or connection with a CU or chaplaincy or something. But just one activity for two days punched a big hole in people’s expectations and may well have opened up opportunities for doing more in the future. (More later…)
  • It’s about the people, not just the activity. At short notice an amazing team of people were able to commit to one or other of the two days. They were the right people, in terms of their personality and conversation skills and this made the activity friendly, welcoming and hospitable. As an experiment, for ten minutes when the others were away grabbing some lunch, I stood to one side to observe how people might engage with the activity unprompted by us. Hardly anyone did because there wasn’t a welcome.
  • Go. The best interactions came from going to small groups of people, explaining the activity and offering them a card to fill in. This broke the ice, made the activity easy to understand and encouraged people to respond. Most did, and, without our prompting, also ended up chatting with their friends about their answers.
  • Adapt. Once set up we immediately saw how two changes could massively increase the impact.
    First, we wrote the question on the cards so that we could give them to people other than in front of the activity where the question was displayed on an A2 sized poster. This meant we could take the activity to the people, instead of expecting them to come to us. (See “Go” above!)
    Second, we went out and bought some Chuppa Chup mini lollies to hand out. Another ice breaker and an opportunity to be unconditionally generous. When asked, “Do I have to fill in a card to get a lolly?” we said, “No. You can have a lolly anyway.”
  • Carpe Diem. It’s all about the relationships… On our second/last day a conversation with one member of staff (a Christian) led to a 2 minute meeting with one of the college managers about how we might serve the college further in the future. I now have a contact card for this manager and also contact details for another member of staff who I’ve been advised to get in touch with. I will.
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Young people and ‘sexting’

Sexting: An Exploration of Practices, Attitudes and Influences is a report from the UK Safer Internet Centre and NSPCC which came out in December 2012.

The report surveyed 120 Year 9 pupils from three counties through group discussions looking at how they use technology, a general exploration of their experience of sexting, the relationship with celebrity, the media, body image and pornography, and consideration of gender differences. The research also conducted an exploratory survey about online life for Year 6 pupils which did not address issues of sexual content.

If you work with young people you probably won’t be too surprised by the conclusions which confirm the prevalence and ‘normality’ of sexting among this age group and highlights an imbalance in the practice and perceptions of boys and girls. One, perhaps unsurprising, finding is that when it comes to seeking advice or support young people almost completely set against approaching adults (parents, teachers, the Police) fearing judgement rather than support. However, they appreciated the discussions they had during the research and wish there were more such opportunities in school life.

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Bethlehem tells the Christmas story

The people of Bethlehem today retelling the Christmas story.

I love this kind of story-telling. It helped my appreciation of the events of that first Christmas and the events of Jesus’ birthplace today.

Video by SPAM, St. Paul’s Arts and Media from St. Paul’s, Auckland, NZ

h/t to David Keen

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