“I'm rather troubled at the moment but I need to be brave”

26th April 2018

Following her visit to another village school the Headteacher of Chacombe CEVA Primary Academy was keen to host one in her own school.  As the 100 year anniversary of the end of WW1 was approaching the school were keen to link the prayer space to this, not least because it was being held just two days after Remembrance Day. 

As this was their first prayer space, and usually we’d stick to the tried and tested stations we tried, as far as possible, to adapt these to fit the theme. However, in addition we set up “Trench Life” in the covered outside area where pupils could get a snapshot of life in the trenches with dirty water and little comfort.  It also included pictures of refugee children, a similar age to themselves, who live in poor conditions today due to wars that wage in their homelands.  One Year 5 pupil was particularly impacted by this commenting “that’s really shocking.  That’s terrible”. 

We also used “Bravery Buttons” inviting pupils to take a brass button (similar to those on soldier’s uniforms) and think about a time they had been or still need to be brave.  Responses, written on heart-shaped post-its included:

  • “I’m rather troubled at the moment but I need to be brave”
  • “I think I have been brave at my great grampys funeral”

Perhaps the most popular activity was “Dark and Light” reflecting the darkness felt by many during WW1 and the hopes they had of better times.  Not only did boys in particular enjoy the medium of scratch art to express this but there were some very thoughtful hopes and dreams:

  • “I hope people live in a nice clean home like us and don’t have to dink dirty water and have comfy bed’s so they have a nice bed like us.”
  • “I hope that when I grow up there will be a cure for cancer”

As ever, we found that many responses were interwoven with those from other stations e.g. Trench Life impacted Dark and Light hopes and dreams, or Praying for the World.

Perhaps the most surprising responses came from pupils engaging with the “Empty Chair” station.  Having only tried this previously with KS2 pupils upwards the team were uncertain how successful it would be with KS1.  We need not have worried, as KS1 pupils were easily able to identify with the loss of a pet (we also included an empty pet basket) and some expressed sadness about miscarriages that had happened in their families with comments like:

  • “I miss all your slobbery kisses Oscar, and your amazing cuddles”
  • “Dear God I wish for my baby sister back”

Another interesting aspect of this prayer space was the visit of Foundation Stage who had only bee in school a couple of months.  Some of the activities were therefore adapted in respect of their developmental stage.  In place of bravery buttons we used Emoji Faces to talk about feelings and increase emotional literacy, in place of scratch art hopes and dreams we used duplo homes to talk about what we like and what our perfect home would be like.  Again we were delighted at the interaction with the Empty Chair with most pupils drawing a picture of a person or pet that they missed.                               

The prayer space ran for just two days, during which time all pupils were able to access it and some returned at lunch times for another visit. 

Staff expressed their gratitude for the opportunity of the Prayer Space: “I just wanted to say a quick thank you to you and the team who helped at our prayer space last week. The feedback from the other staff was brilliant and lots of the children have said how much they enjoyed having time to reflect on different things.  You and your volunteers were wonderful with the children and I really feel they got so much out of it. “

The team consisted of church members from the village as well as other outlying villages, and included school Governors, Methodist ministers and other children’s workers.  For many it was their first experience of a school Prayer Space and they were particularly impacted by the responses, respectfulness and reflection of the pupils as well as the fabulous welcome by staff who were willing to change their routine and location for the duration of this 2 days prayer space.