Setting up a prayer space in your local school is an excellent way to help children reflect on and explore spirituality. The prayerspacesinschools.com website is an excellent place to start finding out about the theory behind prayer spaces and to reflect on the benefits of these spaces for children’s spirituality.
Former children’s worker at Christ Church Spitalfields in East London, Alley Nichols, took a team into her local primary school to explore Christian prayer with the children and to set up a prayer space: “The school is a bright gem set just off the bustling Brick Lane within the diverse East End. This is a one-form entry school, with a significant Bengali Muslim community represented among the staff, children and families.
Through music, art and drama, the children explored the power of God
“One summer, a group of volunteers created an engaging space for the children to come and explore what Christian prayer looks like. It was an exceptional privilege to discuss spirituality with each class while they interacted with the various creative resources in the room.
“What was remarkable was that this diverse group of people came together to engage in prayer, despite the variety of faiths expressed among its participants. It was incredible to witness how every person inquisitively explored the interactive space, asked poignant questions and reflected on what they experienced.”
One of the team members commented: “The idea of a ‘lone’ space for children to be by themselves and pray to God seemed to really attract them. Perhaps the idea of being ‘alone’ is not something we have much of in our society where everyone is connected all the time, so perhaps this experience reached a deeper human need and instinct.”
Godly Play is an approach to children’s ministry and religious education developed by Jerome Berryman. Based on Montessori principles, it allows children to take the lead in their spiritual engagement and development (godlyplay.uk). Originally intended to be used in a church setting, many people are now using the practice in schools.
Susie Steel has been using Godly Play in a school setting for some time: “One day, when building the circle with a group of children at my school, I asked: ‘Are you ready for the story?’ Most children nodded or answered ‘Yes’, but one boy emphatically said ‘No!’
“I turned to him, smiled, and waited a moment. ‘Are you ready now?’ I asked. He still said no. I waited a little longer, wondering what this was about. I asked again, and he replied no again. I then asked him gently why he was not ready. He looked around the room and pointed out that a boy who had been getting his medication had not yet joined the circle. So once the boy was in the circle I asked him again, and he said he was ready.
“I was fascinated by the way the circle patiently waited for him to be ready, even though most of them had not encountered Godly Play before. In the responding time this child wrote me a note covered in hearts. More and more in school situations I am noticing what I interpret as gratitude for the time and respect that is shown for children in Godly Play.”
Ruth Wills, a specialist in children’s spirituality (see page 50), led a series of spirituality mornings with 33 children from Year 3 at a school in the north-west of England. The population of the school is multicultural and mainly represents children from a Muslim background: “The aim of these mornings was for the children to explore global issues and personal responses to them though music, art and drama sessions. The overall theme of the six mornings was ‘water’, and many aspects of spirituality were touched through the activities.
“Through music, art and drama, the children explored the power of God and heard the story of a child living in Africa who has to walk to collect water for the family. They also were given space to respond to the different stimuli they were engaging with.
“These responses included: ‘God is everywhere, no matter if you are split up from others. I am important, no matter what religion you are or what you believe’ and ‘God made a planet for us to live on. God cares for people who have no water or money. Manchester has more clean water than Africa.’ One child drew two pictures of the world, one with the words ‘Africa doesn’t have clean water’ written on the shape of the continent.”
Read more about Ruth’s spirituality mornings at youthandchildrens.work/links.