5th January 2023
St. Mary’s Church in Mold has been running a 2-week mini prayer course for years 7 and 8 at local high school Ysgol Alun. The course took place during RE lessons and embraced the new curriculum, which emphasises experiential learning and application. Mold Alun is a large school with over 450 students in years 7 and 8, so we saw a lot of young people and teaching staff in those 2 weeks!
The first week involved speaking to the whole of Y7/8 by teaching RE classes. In each lesson, students heard a personal testimony about how prayer had made a difference in the speakers’ life, followed by a discussion and worksheet on the five different types of prayer (intercession, petition, confession, thanksgiving and adoration). We then asked students to give examples of things they might want to pray for, and categorised these into different types of prayer. This ensured from the schools’ perspective that students not only had a lively discussion, but also achieved specific learning outcomes. The lesson ended with about 20 minutes of Q&A, where the young people could ask ANYTHING about what it means to be a Christian. There were some really profound questions, such as “What do you think about other religions?” and “Why do bad things happen to good people?” – as well as questions like “Does God like dogs because God is dog spelt backwards?!”
The following week, each RE class (18 in all) came down to the hall to experience Prayer Spaces. We split each class into 7 to rotate around the different stations: the labyrinth, fizzy forgiveness, Be Still, refugee rucksacks, hope rope, opportunity keys and TARDIS post-it prayers! We were also open at lunchtimes. We found that students who hadn’t yet had their lesson had heard about the prayer space and couldn’t wait until class to come in!
The Be Still tent was far and away the most loved station. This gave us plenty of opportunities to talk about how God loves us just as we are; we don’t have to ‘do’ anything to earn His love. In our feedback at the end of each session, we also talked with students about how different ways of praying resonate with different people. There’s as many different ways to pray as there are people in the world!
I found sometimes that with large groups, the space could feel more chaotic than I’m used to a prayer space feeling. Yet afterwards, during feedback and upon reading the prayers, it was obvious that their time in the hall had given students – in the midst of talk, laughter and rushing around – the chance to consider some very poignant things in their lives. As an introvert, my most profound prayer times tend to take place in solitude. My prejudice towards calm almost made me miss what was happening in Alun hall: in watching others enact their prayers, in the comfort of laughter, and with surprising vulnerability in their groups, the young people invited God to be with them on their own terms.
We are now praying that God shows us the best ways to continue to engage with Ysgol Alun!
You can find all the prayer space activities mentioned in this story here and type each one into the filter bar. Or alternatively click the word of the prayer activity above!