A day with a difference, and a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding one at that! As a Church of England school, Hempsted has tried to establish stronger links with its local church (St. Swithun’s, under the very capable and inspiring hands of Canon Nikki Arthy) over the past few years in particular. Now and again, Nikki asks members of the Messy Church team if they would be willing to spare some time to support community- or school-related events. Being DBS cleared and an experienced teacher, Prayer Day at Hempsted C of E Primary School was obviously one of my areas of expertise and an event to volunteer my services for!
It had been intended to have everyone in the school hall at the start and end of the day. However, due to the current heatwave and 30+ degrees Centigrade temperatures, it was decided to be sensible and abandon this idea.
At their allotted time, the children came into the hall in their class group and with their teacher and any teaching assistant/s. They had the opportunity to explore up to five different prayer stations in the time available, all centred upon a specific theme, e.g. family; me; friends; world and school.
Mrs Middleton and myself’s role was promoting ‘Love for the world’. Our focus was on Psalm 8: 1, ‘O Lord, our Lord, your greatness is seen in all the world.’ We explained to the children that Christians believe the world was made by God and it is beautiful. At one time, it was perfect, but things have gone wrong and the world is not the great place it once was. This is not how God meant it to be. Sometimes, children are particularly damaged and hurt by the things that happen in the world. To begin with, the youngsters were asked to look at the inflatable globes on the table and try to identify places that they had been to, places that they had heard about and places that they would like to visit. Next, they were encouraged to think about the pain that God feels when he sees his perfect world going wrong. Then, pupils were prompted to consider children in other parts of the world. They were asked to hold or hug an inflatable globe silently for a short while, thinking of all the children in the world and particularly those who were suffering. Afterwards, each child was given a tag with a globe and children printed on it. On the reverse, they were invited to share their thoughts, e.g. who would they like us all to say a prayer for. These were then placed at an appropriate location on the world map that covered the table.
Other activities on offer to the children included creating class prayer paper chains, making beaded friendship bracelets, writing teaspoon (TSP … Thank you; Sorry; Please) prayers and decorating gingerbread men/women to hang on a small branch of a tree.
At the end of their session, Mrs Hill encouraged the children to come and sit in the centre of the hall for a time of reflection together. A number of the children’s prayers were shared and pupil voice was collated about the activities that they had just taken part in. Many of their prayers focused on family, friends, their school and events that had featured in recent News bulletins. The children clearly enjoyed completing the various tasks, especially the very ‘hands-on’ ones. Perhaps, this is something to consider when planning a future Prayer Day? Less writing/drawing and more handling/talking, which would make them more accessible to less able and younger pupils too.
Parents/carers were also invited to participate, with sessions available to them both before and after school. Not only did this give them the chance to see what their child/children would be/had been doing, but it also provided them with a few quiet moments for reflection or to discuss any thoughts or feelings that they had, if they so wished. Days such as these are an effective means of engaging with many sectors of our local community and certainly showcase the delightful school that we are so lucky to have within our village of Hempsted.
A ‘well done’ and ‘thank you’ to all who helped organise and deliver the day.
A later e-mail from Mrs Hill stated:
‘Thank you so much for all your help on Wednesday and all your preparation. The children are still talking about it today and wearing their bracelets, so thank you. A beautiful day with beautiful weather.’
What a lovely and very genuine summary! It was a pleasure to have been able to assist her and other staff at the school.