Y6 Prayer Spaces & Leavers’ Services in Durham Cathedral.

15th July 2023

Each year we have the privilege of running an event for the year six pupils in our Church of England primary schools across the diocese to mark the transition from primary to secondary education.  This year we welcomed just over 2500 pupils from 63 schools from around the diocese.  The logistics of such an event mean that we have to begin planning in January for the events taking place in June, but as we run six services over three days with around 500 children attending each service, we rely on a well organised event to make everything run smoothly!

Prayer spaces are such a blessing to run, as they promote such meaningful engagement with the children (and adults) who use them.  This year, we had left some of our prayer spaces up in the cathedral after each day and the public who were visiting the cathedral used them too!  We had five prayer spaces in total this year, each with the aim of helping the children reflect on some of their experiences in primary school and to also acknowledge some of the concerns and worries they may have about their next step into secondary education.

This year our theme was ‘We Journey Together’ and our prayer stations were:

1. Thank you. Students are invited to think of someone who they are thankful for during Year six (or before) – maybe another child, a teacher, a helper, or a volunteer? Students are invited to make a pipe-cleaner person, pray for that person, thanking God for them and then take the pipecleaner people home with them. 

2. Please. Students are invited to think about something that they may be worried about, or that they want to ask God about, to ‘put into God’s hands’. Students draw around one of their hands and then write something that they want to leave in God’s hands into the hand-shape. It doesn’t have to be about school – it might be something about a family member, or some other concern. The hand shapes are then Blu-tacked onto a display.

3. Together (LEGO)  Students are in groups and invited to think about their place in the bigger picture, their part to play in their schools and communities.  They then use the lego bricks to build something to represent themselves.  They can also add a brick to the large cross which is being made at the station.

4. Have Your Say Students are invited to ‘have their say’ on a series of questions about themselves, God and the wider world.  They will be invited to capture their voices in a number of ways, including written speech bubbles and cloud thinking bubbles, pictoral evidence and audio and video recording options will also be available. 

5. Guardians Of Ancora Students are invited to participate in the digital game using tablets exploring the virtual world of Ancora which brings Bible stories to life.  The programme is developed by Scripture Union and this activity will be hosted by Scripture Union staff.

Extra Activities:

As with last year to promote our Growing Faith agenda, we created some prayer activities for the children to take back to school with them.  They also received a special cross per class which can be used as a focal point for these prayer activities.  We have also created some take home prayer activities with a simple wooden cross for each child.

Each year we have Year 10 pupils from each of our Church of England Secondary schools who come to help run the prayer spaces, which is so essential to the whole event in so many ways.  Allowing children to see young people take the lead is inspiring and this year we had some Year ten pupils who had taken part in the Prayer Spaces and Service when they were in Year six themselves!

We also have a 30 minute service to mark the occasion and this helps to consolidate what the children have experienced in the prayer spaces and bring it all together in an act of worship.  We have songs, an exciting talk, Bible readings and videos and prayers all packed in to make the most of our time together.

Feedback from schools, pupils and staff has been overwhelming!  Teachers and staff recognize the importance of the chance to take time out from the usual end of term activities to concentrate on what is next for their classes.  Pupils genuinely appreciate the chance to take time out and reflect on the issues that matter to them.  The written feedback helps us to inform our event moving forward as we strive to make this engagement the best it can possibly be for our children.