Creative prayer week at Sheringham School
2016: Soul Space, the creative prayer initiative organised by local Christian workers, returned to Sheringham High School for a week in July, with over 400 students getting the opportunity to visit and reflect.
This was the fourth year that Soul Space had visited the school, offering students a creative and imaginative space for prayer and reflection. Once again the drama studio was transformed by creating a variety of zones filled with interactive activities, all with the purpose of encouraging the students to explore their spirituality, engage with prayer and give them the opportunity and space for thoughtful reflection.
The Soul Space was organised by Simon Fenn (Children, Youth and Family Missioner - Church of England) in partnership with Peter Skivington (Youth & Children's Pastor - Lighthouse Community Church), along with volunteers from local churches, and was supported by Jo Paffett (Head of Philosophy & Ethics).
The core activities which are at the heart of the project - acts of saying sorry, thanksgiving, petition and big life questions - help the students navigate prayer and reflection, and another element of the space encourages the students to think about wider world issues and helps them engage in social action.
This year the social action focus was on the millions of workers around the world, mainly women, who suffer from poverty and exploitation, producing cheap fashion for our shops. Students were able to sew a button onto a polo shirt as a form of petition to support the ‘Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops’ campaign. The students will present the shirt to local MP Norman Lamb, and ask that the UK government requires all brands and retailers to join the Bangladesh Safety Accord to ensure workers in their supply chains are paid a living wage.
Feedback from the students, staff and volunteers was overwhelmingly positive. The students welcomed the opportunity for a space to be still and think about some of the bigger questions in life and the world around them. One student commented, “It’s a place to sort out your thoughts” and said, “I love it - I could spend the whole day here”. Students were asked to think of one word to describe the Soul Space. Out of the 400+ pupils, the word 'calming' scored highest, closely followed by ‘relaxing’; however the funniest response was 'shamazing'!
It was evident from the ‘Prayer Wall’ that young people are greatly affected by political and social issues. This year, in particular, there were a greater number of requests regarding current affairs, particularly focusing on the desire for world peace and unity. Simon Fenn said “It has been an uplifting experience and real blessing to see the students' heartfelt responses, their empathy for others and their appreciation of all the 'good stuff' in their lives. The Soul Space has given them opportunities to explore their own personal faith and some of the tools to deal with their emotions and feelings. The kindness and empathy shown by the students towards their peers dealing with difficult situations has been moving.”
The Soul Space was also open to the local community and parents including the Year 6 Open Evening. Many of the visitors to the Soul Space said that the space had a powerful effect on them - “It has been very humbling to be able to share the students’ thoughts and prayers”. Another visitor commented, “There is a great sense of peace and meditation in this place, and the openness to participate and share deep thoughts is evidenced through the students' responses.”
One teacher reflected on his astonishment at the way the students embraced the space and the activities, “Each year I am amazed by their level of engagement and depth of their reflections. This space has the unique ability to create opportunities for some deep thinking and connections that cannot be replicated in the classroom. I am constantly surprised by the students’ responses and empathy. It is a thought-provoking space that the students really look forward to and recognise its value.”
At the end of the event, Pete Skivington reflected, “This year’s Soul Space has been a brilliant time of seeing students purposefully engage with the activities, offering up their heartfelt concerns and worries in prayer and, for some, making a connection with God - I recall one student commenting, ‘I feel recognised, like God knows me’. The Soul Space creates an atmosphere of peace and reflection for all.”
Simon concluded “It is clear that, in the hectic pace of life, we all need the ‘space’ to stop, think and reflect about some of the bigger issues in our own lives and that of the wider world. The Soul Space at Sheringham High allowed for just that; both students and staff found it tremendously beneficial to have a space to be still and think afresh about life and spirituality and, for some, to find clarity and peace.”
Simon and Pete are pictured above with the "Love Fashion, Hate Sweatshops" polo shirt.
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