St John’s Anglican College, Forest Lake, is going into its third year of holding Prayer Spaces in Schools. Our Prayer Spaces have certainly grown in that time. What I mean by this is that, I have grown spiritually, but more importantly I have watched students, staff and parents grow spiritually.
Prayer Spaces take on a life of their own.
Prayer Spaces take on a life of their own. They are deeply spiritual places for students to explore their spirituality in a non-threatening environment. The Space is created, students are invited in, then we step back and allow them to reflect and experience what I would call the Divine. There have been many conversations with the students about faith. The students feel comfortable talking about whether they have a faith or not and one student asked if it was okay to question their faith.
St John’s have students of many different faiths and cultures. The Prayer Space seems to meet these students needs. One student reflected that Prayer Space is important to them because it meets them where they are and they can be who they are without judgement. This is what I call a Divine moment.
Within the Prayer Space, other students have been physically distressed, and these have been opportunities to talk with them about various issues. It is some of these students who I reflect upon as I write this article. I have watched how they have grown and changed in a positive way through these Prayer Space encounters.
Prayer Space speak of peace, relaxation, times of prayer
The feedback forms which we gather from staff and students after each Prayer Space speak of peace, relaxation, times of prayer, time to catch one’s breath, leaving worries behind, solving issues and fun. All this informs me we are on the right track with Prayer Spaces. The Prayer Spaces open up opportunities that may never have happened.
At a recent Prayer Space, I witnessed a staff member who was taking their class through, lie on the floor. Soon the students were there lying with them. The staff member told me later that they had some very deep discussions about some major life issues. This may not have happened during class time.
We also keep the Prayer Space open for parents to have time for themselves. One parent told me that they changed their whole life after quietly reflecting in the Prayer Space.
Staff are very supportive. They volunteer their time to help create resources and keep the Prayer Space open at morning tea and lunch breaks. Sometimes students do not use the Prayer Space when open at these times, but one staff member said how much they enjoy having the space so they can be quiet, think and reflect.
I have two wonderful parents who are part of the team who think of new stations, create them, then work out how to put together the Prayer Space. They also help take the Prayer Space down. It is very important to have their input because they bring the Prayer Space alive in ways that one person could not do.
Prayer Spaces meets so many needs on so many different levels
It has been very special to be part of this movement and watch my colleagues embrace prayer spaces in their schools. Each Chaplain interprets Prayer Spaces in their ways to suit their school culture. I love the cross-pollination of ideas.
For me, one of the ways I know Prayer Spaces meets so many needs on so many different levels is watching the Prayer Space grow and change from the first day it is set up until it is taken down. For some stations I have ideas about how students will use them and then the stations are taken in a whole different direction. This is what I call Divine. One such station was about broken hearts; they were to rip up hearts and then take a new heart as a process of healing. However, a student decided to write special things on their heart about other students; soon there was a whole box of beautiful thoughts, sayings, and affirmations.
Every time a new Prayer Space is created, there is a feeling of expectation and fear. I wonder, will the Prayer Space be what the students need? Will they find peace and be aware of the Divine presence? As we come to the final days, I have a visual answer through what they have created in the Prayer space. I am blown away by their creative response to their Prayer Space and the feedback that is received.
Susan is the chaplain at St Margaret’s Anglican Girls School in Brisbane.