8th June 2021
For many children, coming back to school earlier this year was a bewildering experience. So much crazy stuff had happened due to Covid 19. Most of it bad; lockdowns, restrictions, not seeing loved-ones, not knowing whether you were coming or going, and then, suddenly ‘bam!’ you’re back in school, trying to regain some sense of normality and trying to remember what 7 x 8 is.
In mid March, I received an email from the Head of Thurton Primary in Norfolk (one of the schools I regularly visit in my role of Youth Worker with Norwich Youth for Christ) which read, ‘Are you free to pop in for a chat re: summer term and Restorative Prayer Spaces?’. Funnily enough, that very week, Phil was leading an online training session entitled, ‘Prayer Spaces and Recovery‘. So I had to log in, didn’t I? The session was superb! I was struck by the need for children and young people to recognise the trauma that we’ve been through this past year; to name the hurts they have experienced so that they can move forward.
Jonathan Barber (the Head at Thurton) and I agreed that we would place a single Prayer Zone tackling this issue near the main entrance to the school. I decided on the title ‘Bottle of Tears’ from the verse in Psalm 56, ‘You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You record each one in your book.’ We placed a big bottle at the foot of a wooden cross. ‘Tears’ in the form of clear, aqua beads were available for children to place in the bottle whilst thinking /praying about a sad thing that took place during Lockdown. They were then invited to write that sad thing on a tear-shaped piece of card and stick it to the cross if they wanted to.
The response, as I’ve seen many times with Prayer Spaces, was extraordinary. The bottle was very soon full of ‘tears’. Apart from that, the comments on the cards were honest and real and, sometimes, heart-breaking. The school staff were so pleased and also, quite surprised by the way the children accessed the zone and felt they could ‘lay bare’ their troubles before everyone.
A visiting Diocese Support officer said, ‘the reflective space in the hallway is impressive. The theme of ‘It’s OK to not be OK’ has produced some very touching reflections from the children. The thoughts expressed demonstrated the openness and trust that you have helped to create at Thurton – children are not afraid to say what they really feel. It is very touching to witness this culture, rooted in Christian love and acceptance.”
Gary is a Youth Worker with Norwich Youth for Christ.