At St Margaret’s, 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 Easter and the Lenten season. Students in Years 7 to 10 journeyed through the school’s Chapel, which was transformed to feature eight stations with activities based around Palm Sunday (Joy), the Last Supper (Friendship), Gethsemane (Big Questions), Carrying the Cross (Sensory Station), Forgive them (Fizzy Forgiveness), The Cross (Sorry), Resurrection (Hope Blossoms) and a space for mindfulness.
St Margaret’s Chaplain The Reverend Jazz Dow said the Prayer Space was an invitational 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 lives of students are busy. They work hard and go to before and after school activities. Prayer Space allows 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,” said Rev’d Jazz.
“The invitational nature of Prayer Space 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 but that the possibilities for prayer are infinite.”
One of the many aspects of Prayer Space 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 a heavy burden. This sensory activation invited students to dip their hands into a tray of water beads while imagining letting go of their worries.
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 the 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 not feel comfortable asking aloud, and the process of writing it down was cathartic in itself.
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 family and friends with one writing: "I am thankful for my family, friends and people who have supported me.”
At the end of each Prayer Space session, Rev’d Jazz asks for feedback from the students.
“One student said the Big Question (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 would end, saying it reminded her of what is happening in the wider world.
“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’,” Rev’d Jazz said.
During the two-week Easter Prayer Space, students in both the primary and secondary schools also observed Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season. Ordinarily, a whole school service would be held to mark this important holy occasion; however, COVID restrictions in schools meant no large gatherings could be held. This led Rev’d Jazz to reimagine Ash Wednesday, creating a pop-up, outdoor, mindfulness activity.
Built around the theme ‘stronger together’, the 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 displaying kindness to others, to friends, family members siblings and even some that involved displaying kindness to the earth, with one student writing, “For Lent, I’m not going to use non-reusable plastic in my lunchbox.”
Rev’d Jazz says that as students step into Prayer Space the impact is 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 setup of each space.”