How to run Advent and Christmas prayer spaces

By The Rev’d Susan Crothers-Robertson.

Prayer spaces give children and young people the mindful opportunity to explore life questions, spirituality and faith in a safe, creative and interactive way.

At St Margaret’s Anglican Girls School in Brisbane, prayer spaces have been a highlight of the students’ faith exploration since 2016.

During the recent prayer space themed ‘The Christmas Journey’, a Pre-Prep student, when asked what God is like, responded with: “God is love and kind, and cares for me like Mummy and Daddy do.”

Another, when asked to take a stone and think about any mistakes they had made before burying it in the sand as they let go, said, “I made a big mistake, I ate a whole bag of lollies.” The teacher said, “Let’s bury it and God will take it away,” to which the child responded, “I sure hope so.”

A student in Year 1 mused: “I love the Missed Journey station because it reminds me if I do something wrong, I can bury the stone, knowing that I am forgiven and I can forgive others.”

At the Journeying Towards the Star station, it was heartening to see so many students pen thankful messages to parents, staff and fellow students.

Ideally, it is great to visit a prayer space event and see it in action. We are happy to welcome visitors to our future prayer spaces.

The Rev’d Susan’s top 10 tips for running Advent and Christmas prayer spaces

  1. The Prayer Spaces in Schools website is a great starting point offering free resources. It inspired me to do my first Prayer Space at St John’s Anglican College in 2014.
  2. Simplicity is key. My first Prayer Space was a Transition Prayer Space set up by four Year 10 students for the Year 6 cohort. We had four stations, simple resources and it went for only an hour, but it was the most profound space I have created. The staff and students said they got so much out of it.
  3. Make use of existing Prayer Space programs, such as the one outlined in this Christmas Journey Prayer Space booklet, which details all that is needed for eight simple prayer spaces.
  4. Keep resources simple and easy to find and create. For example, make use of these simple cut-out resources for Station 2 (a footprint), Station 6 (a sheep) and Station 7 (a clock) of the Christmas Journey prayer space.
  5. Think about the most appropriate location for each Prayer Space, such as a church / school chapel, hall or outside area.
  6. Think carefully about themes, ensuring that the themes are age-appropriate. Advent and Christmas themes are easy to discern and implement and may include journey, waiting, pilgrimage, social justice (e.g. refugees), spiritual stocktaking, making room in the inn (i.e. being welcoming), peace and joy.
  7. When thinking about themes, consider tying the themes in with wider Diocesan themes, such as ‘Being Together’ and ACSQ vision, values and mission, as invited by the Archbishop.
  8. Invite a delegation of participants to contribute to theme ideas and how the Prayer Spaces will look and feel.
  9. Find people to help. In my previous school, staff, students, parents and people from the local parish helped with creating the resources and setting up/packing up. At St Margaret’s, the Year 8 students help set up and take down the Prayer Spaces.
  10. Ask a few participants to reflect on their Prayer Space experience for publication in your newsletters and magazines, anglican focus and on YouTube and other social media channels.

First published on the anglican focus news site on 17 November 2021.

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