1st December 2022
As a schools worker in East Belfast, I can appreciate the value and benefit of a programme but I also see a growing need across our schools for spaces. Spaces for pupils to process the world around them, to share their worries and fears, to be heard, to be still and most importantly spaces to allow God to speak.
It was a huge privilege to run a prayer space in Knocknagoney Primary school in partnership with Knocknagoney Parish this term. We ran the space for all pupils in the school (from nursery right up to P7) in line with the RE curriculum, allowing pupils to explore what it means to pray. Initially the school was a little apprehensive of what this would look like but after the first few sessions it became clear that this was a space for everyone, a space for every background and belief to explore and enjoy. By the end of the week the school thoroughly supported not only this space but any future spaces in the school as they saw the benefit to both pupils, teachers and classroom assistants.
Each class spent 40 minutes in the prayer space and after a short introduction of what it means to pray they were encouraged to explore for themselves the different prayer stations around the room which were facilitated by volunteers who were parents from the local churches. The most popular prayer activities were the pipe cleaner people, self-esteem mirror, sand trays, calm jars and fizzy forgiveness.
It struck me how many gravitated towards the ‘be still’ corner with a genuine yearning to slow down and take time to reflect. One boy in particular spent the whole of his classes session in the corner, taking time to read stories from the Bible and was enjoy a time of stillness in his day.
“It helps people calm down and come closer to God” (P7 pupil)
As followers of Jesus we believe that God is a God who hears every thought and every word, nothing is lost to Him. I thank God for the space that allowed a young pupil to process her grief at the recent loss of a family member, I thank God for the space to be a listening ear to a pair of older boys who shared the struggle of being a Christian in their class, for the delight of a pupil with autism who could flourish in a sensory filled space. I thank God for the opportunity it gave a classroom assistant to build a better relationship with the pupil she’ll be with over the next two years.
I thank God that He was in every conversation, every word, every action and that it could not have been more clear at the end of the week that in all things God works for our good.
“We can talk to God at any time” P2 Pupil
“It made me feel happy and understand myself and God better” P6 Pupil
“The sand tray helped me because I forgot about mean things people have said” P5 Pupil
“I enjoyed the rope where you have to untie the knots that show your feelings, it was like talking to someone with the same feelings” P7 Pupil
“I can tell God anything” P7 Pupil
We are excited as we plan a second space in this school later on in the year and more spaces in other schools in the area.
Sarah Coghlan – SU E3 worker for East Belfast.