A project has been launched in the Anglican Diocese of Durham to encourage its communities to engage in prayer.
The two-year project will see churches and schools working together to create interactive ‘prayer spaces’ such as in classrooms where children and young people can can reflect on life and try new creative ways of engaging in prayer.
Supporting the project one day per week is ‘Prayer Spaces in Schools’ Director Phil Togwell, who said: “From the work that we have been doing for many years, we know that this project will transform the spiritual, emotional and social life of our Church Schools.
“Our lives are so busy, so accelerated, and we rarely make time to stop and think about what’s going on. Prayer defies this acceleration. It gives us a time and a place to pause and reflect. Prayer is the way where we rediscover who we are, and what we are here for.
“Over the next two years, we are going to raise the profile of prayer and provide lots of creative opportunities for people to try praying, maybe for the first time, maybe in new ways altogether. We are going to encourage and equip churches to take prayer out into the community, making it accessible and relevant for everyone. Our hope is that through this project people may encounter God for the first time and that He transforms their lives.”
Sharon Pritchard, Diocesan Children’s Ministry Advisor, said: “This project gives us a fantastic opportunity to engage with children at the right level and look at different ways of praying.”
The project extends the work the Diocese has been doing to develop prayer spaces for the past three years, which has helped some children engage with prayer at difficult times of their life, including bereavement.
Sharon said that the work would help the Diocese embrace its main priorities of Children and Young People, Poverty and Church Growth.
The Right Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham said: “This is a very important project for us which I know will make a real difference to the spiritual life of our communities. Through prayer we learn to be at peace with ourselves, to become more reflective of our lives and communities and to grow in our faith. I have seen Prayer Spaces at work; they are brilliant.
“Our mission is to bless our communities in Jesus’ name for the good of us all – and growing in prayer is a key component in achieving that – I am delighted that Phil is joining us to help in that work.”
Prayer Spaces in Schools is an initiative born out of the 24-7 prayer movement and during the past eight years has shown remarkable levels of engagement with children and young people in schools and beyond.
Prayer Spaces in Schools enable children and young people, of all faiths and none, to explore issues surrounding spirituality and faith. Taking a broadly Christian perspective as a starting point, prayer spaces give children and young people an opportunity to develop skills of personal reflection.
A prayer space is usually a classroom-sized area that has been transformed for a few days or a week with a range of creative activities that encourage personal reflection. In some schools, teachers bring their students for a subject-lesson in the prayer space. In other schools, students are invited to visit the prayer space voluntarily, during their breaks and lunchtimes and maybe after school, sometimes with their parents. Prayer spaces are usually run by a trained team from a local church as a service to the school at the invitation of, and with the full cooperation of, staff.
As a Diocese, Durham began to engage with Prayer Spaces in Schools in 2011, working with parishes to establish or strengthen church/school links. Children aged 4-to-18 years old have engaged with the prayer spaces in a variety of ways in both Church of England schools and community schools.