As the world continues to be impacted by COVID-19, there is a need, now more than ever, to provide our youth with opportunities to express and explore their concerns as hopes, reflections or prayers.
One of the ways students at St Margaret’s Anglican Girls School are supported to express their thoughts and feelings is through Prayer Spaces, which provide opportunities to think, reflect and pray about different aspects of their lives.
St Margaret’s holds four week-long Prayer Spaces each year: two designed for primary students and two for secondary students. The most recent, held last month, was themed around the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5.1-12.
The Beatitudes are powerful messages of being blessed, which Jesus imparted during his Sermon on the Mount. These messages guide us to recognise we are blessed, even in hard times, and challenge us to think about how we bless others.
St Margaret’s Chaplain Susan Crothers-Robertson said students in Years 7 to 10 were invited to explore the Beatitudes through eight stations: Wisdom, Resilience, Peace, Justice, Joy, Humility, Hope and Forgiveness.
“Each station was designed to be interactive, inviting the students to pray, reflect and/or think about different areas of their life, the world, others, and if they chose, to think about their relationship with God,” The Rev’d Susan said.
“For instance, at the station with the theme ‘Humility’, the students were encouraged to be aware of people who work behind the scenes to make a difference in their lives and to take the time to show their gratitude.
“It was particularly special to watch the students engage and interact with the ‘Hope’ station where the students were invited to create flowers as they reflected about what hope meant to them.
“In the quiet and stillness, you could hear only the gentle rustle of the tissue paper as the students worked on their creations which were then attached to netting to create a sea of flowers, representative of a sea of hope.
“One staff member commented that the mindfulness shown by the students during this activity was transformative.”
The Hope station was a favourite of Year 7 students Beatrice Tritton and Sofia Gearing.
“Prayer spaces nurture my faith and spirituality, as I have many opportunities to connect with God,” Beatrice said.
“It gave me the chance to sit quietly and reflect on the impact that the sisters have had on St Margaret’s,” Sofia said.
Taking the time to slow down, sit quietly to think, reflect and pray and to be present is a key facet of the Prayer Space experience which The Rev’d Susan says is also the aspect students appreciate the most.
“The students are aware that this quiet time in the Prayer Space is a precious gift amid the busyness of school life,” she said.
“They look forward to the opportunity to explore, create, reflect and just be, so it was lovely to hear the ‘wow’ comments as the students entered the space.”
Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it was no surprise to see this global issue still at the forefront of students’ minds. At the ‘Peace’ station, where students were guided to consider circumstances of conflict, such as war or arguments, and to write messages of peace and reconciliation on brightly coloured paper hands, they wrote:
“I pray for people affected by COVID-19 and people struggling to survive” and “COVID, the people who have it and their families who are suffering.”
Other students wrote:
“I pray for happiness”
“Treat people with kindness”
“Everyone should love and respect each other no matter who they are.”
At the ‘Joy’ station, students shared prayers of gratitude and joy on flag bunting. One student shared all the things that brought her joy: movie nights, friends, laughter, chocolate, the beach, sunny days, rainy days, ice-cream, family and holidays. Another wrote “just being alive and knowing I am so loved.”
The Beatitudes Prayer Spaces provided a unique opportunity for students to express and explore their thoughts and feelings and to consider kindness in a way that was visual, hands-on, practical and relevant.
It also highlighted to students that there are different ways to talk or pray with God: that God is there to share their day and to listen to their dreams, big and small, and to hear concerns for themselves and for others.