During 2008, a handful of people around the UK seemed to stumble onto the same idea at roughly the same time - to set up creative prayer rooms in primary and secondary schools, to make prayer simple and accessible to children and young people. By the end of the year, at least six Prayer Spaces in Schools had taken place.
Most of these people already had experience of prayer rooms through the 24-7 Prayer movement (http://www.24-7prayer.com), which began in Chichester in 1999, and has since spread into more than one hundred nations and most Christian denominations, giving birth to prayer and justice initiatives around the globe.
During 2009, having heard encouraging stories from students and teachers from the first six schools, a further twelve schools workers and children’s/youth workers decided to host one in their locality. Again, all the feedback seemed very positive.
Then towards the end of 2009, we began gathering some of the stories, the photos and the feedback, the good practice guidelines and policies, as well as the curriculum links that teachers were beginning to identify, and we put it all together into a simple resource pack. More than 100 of these packs went out within a few months, which suggested that people liked the ideas and were keen to explore hosting Prayer Spaces themselves.
Six months into 2010, more than fifty further Prayer Spaces in Schools had taken place around the UK. In some areas, single Prayer Space weeks have triggered conversations between schools workers and teachers/educational professionals to multiply these Prayer Spaces in Schools across whole areas or school networks (Romford, Gloucester and Oxford, for example). And as a result of these single Prayer Space weeks, some schools are planning a week into their annual rhythm, some are considering setting up permanent Prayer Spaces, and some are considering launching or reviewing their chaplaincy/pastoral roles. The response of children and young people, and of the schools, to this simple idea has been extraordinary.
“I thought the Prayer Space was fantastic. A way for pupils to write down their fears as well as hopes. It gave me as a teacher a real insight into the thoughts of my pupils and what they are dealing with outside the classroom. The comments I overheard from pupils of all years was extremely positive and some were very thought-provoking. I personally hope that the room is here long-term.!” (Maths teacher, secondary school)
It’s probably important to say that Prayer Spaces in Schools are well-rooted in the Christian practices of creative prayer - of communication with God, and of hospitality. We would emphasise hospitality, because these Prayer Spaces are places of welcome, where children and young people of all faiths (and those of no faith) can find time and space and creative ways to reflect on questions of life and meaning and spirituality. So far, they have been hosted by people from across the denominational spectrum, and as such they don’t promote a particular ‘brand’ of Christianity at the exclusion of others.