Fresh from another round of Prayer Spaces in Schools for Easter across the three CofE schools I work in, I was interested to read about a project run in Bangor Cathedral focussed on how Christians understand and celebrate Christmas in the latest issue of Rural Theology. Learning in rural cathedrals: a case study of religious education outside the classroom by Owen Edwards & Tania ap Siôn is based on a study of visits by 7 to 11 year olds and involved a series of workshops including Godly Play, learning and singing Christmas carols as well as activities about the Christian year and the churchly delights of liturgical colours and clothing.
Rather than religious education as such, Prayer Spaces by contrast create a focus for spirituality and reflection in schools. And as well as allowing children to stop and think in the busy school day, it’s a chance for people from the local church to be a part of school for a short time. It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet and talk with the children about matters of life and faith. In the course of just one day, our team met every single child in the village primary school. For us, it was our second attempt at running such an event, this time based around the Easter story.
However, as well as going into school, we’d really love for children to come to the church. But where our rural churches are a long walk from the school, it’s a bit much to expect schools to bring their pupils into church often. A few days after the prayer spaces day, one of the schools was due to come to church for their Easter end of term service, but heavy rain for the whole of that morning prevented this.
The research from Bangor Cathedral suggests it’s worth persevering. And not just for formal educational visits so children can see a font and a pulpit in its natural setting. Or just for special services at the key festivals, but for something in between… something that brings new life to the content of RE lessons, that allows for an encounter with a living faith.
If you’re interested in running Prayer Spaces in the schools you work with, the Prayer Spaces in Schools website is full of excellent resources and there are frequent training courses across the UK.