At St Margaret’s Anglican Girls School, Prayer Spaces are held each term for both the primary and secondary students to explore life’s big questions, spirituality and faith in a safe, creative and interactive way.
The most recent of the school’s Prayer Spaces was themed around the Lenten and Easter seasons.
Students in Years 7 to 10 journeyed through the school’s chapel, which was transformed into eight stations with activities based around Palm Sunday (Joy), the Last Supper (Friendship), Garden of Gethsemane (Big Questions), Carrying the Cross (Sensory Station), Forgive Them (Fizzy Forgiveness), The Cross (Sorry) and Resurrection (Hope Blossoms), as well as a space for mindfulness.
St Margaret’s Chaplain The Rev’d Jazz Dow said that Prayer Spaces provide an invitational and serene space for students.
“It is a space where students are invited to participate in the activity or choose to just be still and enjoy the calm and quiet of the chapel,” The Rev’d Jazz said.
“The lives of students are busy. They work hard and go to before and after school activities. Prayer Spaces allow students to slow down and take a break from the busyness. It allows them to feel their feelings and rest for a moment, so that they can re-enter the business of the day with renewed focus and energy.
“The invitational nature of Prayer Spaces reminds students that all are welcome, no matter what their beliefs are. It also reminds students that prayer is multi-dimensional – that there isn’t one way to pray, and that the possibilities for prayer are infinite.”
One of the many aspects of Prayer Spaces that students enjoy is the interactive nature of each station or activity. At the Carrying the Cross station, for example, students were encouraged to let go of their worries that can sometimes feel like heavy burdens. This sensory activity involved students dipping their hands into a tray of water beads while imagining the letting go of their worries.
The Palm Sunday station was an opportunity for students to reflect on the joy of the crowd that gathered to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem and then to name what they are grateful for in their own lives. Many students expressed gratitude for loved ones, with one writing: “I am thankful for my family, friends and people who have supported me.”
While at the Garden of Gethsemane station, students were encouraged to reflect on Jesus’ big questions while he was in the garden that night. They were then invited to write down their own big questions and peg them to a string hanging from above. By the end of the week, hundreds of big questions were gathered. The activity helped students to ask things they might feel uncomfortable asking aloud, and the process of writing questions down was cathartic in itself.
One student said the Big Question (at the Garden of Gethsemane) station helped her to better understand what other people are going through, giving her greater perspective.
Another student was moved by the question about when the war between Russia and Ukraine might end, saying it prompted her to think about what is happening in the wider world.
At the end of each Prayer Space session, The Rev’d Jazz asks for feedback from the students.
“An appreciation for a quiet and still space was also shared by many students and even teachers, with one saying, ‘This is just what I needed’,” The Rev’d Jazz said.
During the two-week Lenten and Easter Prayer Space, students in both the primary and secondary schools observed Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season.
Ordinarily, a whole-school service would be held to mark this holy occasion; however, COVID-19 restrictions in schools prevented large gatherings. This led The Rev’d Jazz to reimagine Ash Wednesday, creating a pop-up outdoor mindfulness activity.
Built around the theme “Stronger Together”, this activity invited students to consider committing to an act of kindness for Lent. Students wrote or drew their commitment on brightly coloured sticky stars, resulting in hundreds of kind commitments by the end of the day. There were many messages expressing kindness to friends, family members, and to the earth, with one student writing: “For Lent, I’m not going to use non-reusable plastic in my lunchbox.”
The Rev’d Jazz said that as students step into Prayer Spaces, the impact is immediately visible.
“It’s as if there is a collective sigh from the students – a letting go of any stresses or worries they are bringing with them. There is also a sense of awe and anticipation evoked by the fairy lights, colours and the set-up of each space,” she said.Jump to next article