Prayer Spaces November 2018 - Hope, Peace and Remembrance
In November 2018 at the invitation of Sharon Pritchard, Head Teacher, our second prayer space event took place at Grayshott CE Primary School.
The prayer space was organized to coincide with a week of wider Armistice 1918 and Remembrance activities. The event was entitled: ‘Peace, Hope & Remembrance.’ The aim was to help the children look back and remember the sacrifices of others during past conflicts, to reflect on what they hope and pray for right now for their families, local communities and the world, as well as to pray for peace both now and in the future.
The two-day event was a collaborative effort organized by a wonderful team of people with a wealth of experience. The team included a school staff member, parents who regularly pray for the school, our school-affiliated local church, St Luke’s Grayshott, and The Wey Assemblies and Schools Team, a ministry of another local church, 3-Counties. All these groups have had strong ongoing relationships with the school over the years.
By far the highlight of this team effort was the involvement of a group of 12-15 pupils who chose to attend a ‘Prayer Space Club,’ after school, where the children helped create several of the installations for the space over the course of two sessions.
The main visual centre-pieces of the space this year were a papier-mache dove and a poppy garden. The dove, which had been enthusiastically made by the children (and long-suffering teacher!) was suspended from the ceiling for our dove peace prayers activity.
For the poppy garden, the children and members of the St Luke’s congregation spent, what amounted to several hours, cutting out poppy-shaped pieces of paper on which prayers of thanks were going to be written during the event. The children also made stunning paint and tissue paper poppies of various sizes, which were displayed all around the space.
It was a real joy to witness these children showing off their work to their friends and families, and having some sense of ownership of the prayer space.
During the course of the two days, every class, accompanied by staff members, visited the space, in groups of 15, at least once for twenty minutes.
Both staff and pupils were also invited back during breaks. After school each day, the children were encouraged to bring their parents/carers/siblings in to experience the space.
Due to the hard work of organisations such as ‘Prayer Spaces in Schools’ and the ‘Diocese of Guildford Education Team,’ there were plenty of available online ideas and resource lists around the themes of remembrance and peace.
The challenge, as always, was being realistic about the number of prayer stations our room could hold and that the volunteers could oversee!
The prayer activities used during the event were selected with the intention of helping the children have interactive, multi-sensory experiences that were both quiet, peaceful opportunities for stillness, reflection and prayer and also active, creative experiences that would help them to pray in perhaps new ways. Some activities were reinvented favourites from our first prayer space and others were new to the children.
The stations included: dove peace prayers, poppy prayers of thanks and remembrance, bubble tube reflections, ‘who do you think you are?’ affirmation mirror activity, my gift of peace hand activity, reconciliation zips praying for our relationships, world play dough prayers, weaving prayers of peace and hope for those suffering around the world, fizzy forgiveness and key ring prayers helping us to pray for our family, school, those who help and serve us in our locality and those serving in our armed forces/helping professions around the world.
As we learned from our previous prayer space, it was not always the activities we expected that would be the most impactful to the participants.
We found the practical activities immensely popular, especially the key rings that the children could take home with them. However we noticed that the more reflective activities, such as the reconciliation zips, mirror activity and the bubble tube, were extremely powerful for certain individuals when sensitively supported by an adult in an un-intrusive way. One pupil commented about the bubble tube: “I was being peaceful and calm when looking into the bubbles.”
The wealth of shared experience of the team really helped us make the most of some of these activities. For example, it was suggested to put ‘jewels’ (glass beads such as used in garden pots), next to the mirror activity. A child/adult was invited to read the affirmations and bible verses about how God sees them. If they wished, after spending a few minutes looking in the mirror and reflecting or praying, a ‘jewel’ was offered to the child as a reminder of how valuable and precious to God they are. This small addition meant there was always a long line for this activity as the children wanted their jewels! One boy when asked about the mirrors and jewels summed up his feelings so powerfully: “I looked in the reflection mirror and thought about sadness. Then the man gave me a jewel. I will use it for remembering that God loves me.”
This second prayer space was widely welcomed and received by the children and adults who experienced it. One pupil’s comment about her experience in the prayer space expresses beautifully what we were delighted to hear several times over: “It gave me some quiet time to just stop and think and be silent.”
Second time around, there were many aspects of organizing and running the space that were significantly easier due to previous experience. A different theme and some new activities meant that the children still walked in and were wowed by the space. Familiar activities were gladly received again.
The collaboration between the school, parents and the local churches was a true highlight of this second prayer space. It built upon the momentum that was begun during the first prayer space 18 months prior and was taken even further.
In fact at the end of the week some of the prayer space was not only used by the school as part of the Remembrance week ‘show of work’ exhibition, but the poppy garden even went mobile to St Luke’s where it was used as part of a Remembrance Day service. This really demonstrates value for money!
In a day and age where we are often asking ourselves how to effectively help our children remember and be grateful for the sacrifices of those who have bought our freedom at great personal cost, this prayer space event was a meaningful part of that journey for the children and adults of Grayshott School. However, it did not stop there. The activities in the prayer space and opportunities for stillness and reflection also reinforced the fact that today we can all connect very personally, creatively, and tangibly with the Living Hope who invites us to receive His peace in our time and place in history.
Who knows when the next prayer space will be? Since we are redeveloping our school playground, perhaps the next one will move out into the great outdoors!
Parent to Bea, aged 8