We've already shared some feedback from our week at St James CEP in Blackburn but Mumtaj Jolly, RE Co-ordinator sent us this report recently:
A school boasting a population of four hundred pupils, all from a faith background has no trouble engaging children in the discipline of prayer.
In a Church of England school, life is punctuated with regular opportunities for collective prayer: to signal the end of Worship, the start of lunch or to mark the relieved sigh at the end of the day.
Driven by a desire to inspire heartfelt communication with God, ‘The Prayer Project’ was planned as a whole school two week focus on prayer and spirituality. Its main aim was to highlight the enormous value of the often rushed yet incredibly precious moments of school, when life stands still for a few minutes of quiet reflection and prayer.
In the classroomOrison was booked to provide a ‘workshop’ the children would visit as part of their learning.
This would be a part of a wider exploration and celebration of prayer, which incorporated:
• Taking part in multi-sensory prayer activities.
• Writing prayers for Collective Worship.
• Creating a class prayer book
• Exploring prayer in different religions.
• Creating spiritual areas in the classroom/displays promoting prayer and spirituality.
• Helping to develop a school prayer/ resources for Collective Worship.
Orison arrived on a dull wet February morning in the shape of a transit van driven by Rachel Warwick (Director of Orison). Within the space of two hours, under Rachel’s expert instruction, I worked alongside a team of volunteers from the Church to help set up the prayer spaces. The key stage one hall was transformed into an unrecognisable Aladdin’s cavern filled with cosy cleverly lit tents, sectioning off intimate prayer spaces. You could no longer walk through the hall, you had to slow down and stare; it inspired awe and wonder.
The Orison experienceIn the workshop Rachel introduced ‘Prayer’ then children engaged in creative exploration.
• A video about difficult lives in India struck a chord with many children and they prayed for help.
• Children wrote their names on large hands to remind themselves that God knows who they are.
• The bubble tube and plasma ball had everyone captivated and created a beautifully calming opportunity for children to add their own voices to the fast growing conversations with God.
• The floor became sacred as all carefully stepped around paper taped to the floor on which children could write their own questions to ask God.
• A world map allowed children to think of others in need and feel empowered.
• The sorry zone gave children a chance to start again by ‘letting go’ of the bad and got them thinking of forgiveness.
• The session ended with Rachel or a Church volunteer sharing a ‘prayer story’.
There’s no stopping us now!
Children enjoyed creating Graffiti prayers, being involved in Prayer walks, making Paper chain prayers/prayer flags and writing ‘Letters to God’.
Fridge magnet prayers, creating art inspired by the themes involved in prayer, creating prayer beads, prayer books and more importantly an awareness of the importance of prayer was a joy.
What did we learn?Orison created more than just prayer spaces in the school. It brought with it an air of excitement which spread like wildfire. The children were enthused, visitors were awed.
Busy parents rushed in for a quick look and were mesmerised by how spiritually aware their children can be, when given the opportunity.
It was exhilarating to witness an entire school community excited about ‘talking to God’. Orison, in our experience was a God-send. As a school we feel blessed that we managed, even for a short time, to capture something so indefinably powerful. Orison was a crucial part of an experience that allowed us to truly feel God’s presence amongst us.
Mumtaj Jolly (RE Co-ordinator)
St. James’ CEP Blackburn