Pop-Up Sacred Space is an idea created by the Rev’d Nicki Colledge, School Chaplain at St Margaret’s Anglican Girls School. Its purpose is to create a space in the everyday places of the school that might remind students that they can pray and engage with God wherever they are.
What was the need or challenge being addressed?
In a boarding school community, I have particularly questioned and struggled with the notion of “rent-a-crowd” congregations and numerous chapel services where participants are not there purely by choice alone. I have pondered, too, for many years in school ministry how best to share the “everyday” nature of our wonderful God and that prayer can certainly take place anywhere, at any time and any place.
What was the response to the need?
Pop-Up Sacred Space emerged from my experimentations with “Travelling Church” – before school from time to time I would take the Eucharist “on the road” as it were, setting up a Eucharist in the hustle and bustle of before school movement.
As I came across a pop-up instant beach tent in my garage one day, an image of “instant sacred spaces” was born. During Primary School Weekly Chapel one Monday I introduced the idea of prayer happening wherever we are and then, as if by magic, the Pop-Up Sacred Space literally filled the sanctuary. It was met with “ooohs” and “aahhs” – always a good beginning!
The Pop-Up Sacred Space first appeared at morning tea one Spring day just near the Tuckshop (canteen). Inside was a soft rug, a basket and some coloured paper on which to write “thankful notes”. These were later gathered and used in a follow up chapel time.
What was the impact?
First, the primary students came; some with squeals of delight and some with looks of amusement. There was much excitement in the quiet space … but it was only a beginning! Soon I was surprised to find some year 10 girls come. They climbed in and sat together. They solemnly took to the task of writing their thoughts. But then, they didn’t move! One admitted to wanting to have her Maths class in the tent. One wished she could take the tent with her everywhere. They were grateful for a small moment where they could “climb in and get away”, “sit and feel at peace” and “allowed to feel young again”. No doubt the tent has a cubby-like effect!
The idea of the Pop-Up Sacred Space is quite simply that it can appear anywhere, at any time. It has appeared at the back of a Religious Education classroom, outside the boarders’ dining room, next to the primary playground … Those wandering by can feel welcome to participate in the activity or suggestion on offer that day. Once, there was a sand box and stones. Once, a bowl of water. Once, some essential oils to inspire being still … It is about experiencing silence, feeling welcome, recognising that the sacred can be all around us and that each one of us can be surprised by God!
What were the greatest challenges?
The greatest challenge has been placating those students who realise that they missed out on one of the Pop-Up days because they had a meeting, or were not in the “right” part of the school at the time. One older student was quite stroppy with me when she missed out one day, however it led to a conversation about not waiting for me to share the space, but rather take the opportunity to realise that you can create your own!