Prayer Spaces enable children and young people, of all faiths and none, to explore life questions, 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 and to explore prayer in an open, inclusive, creative and safe environment. The Prayer Spaces allow students to make their own meaning and to draw their own conclusions.
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 on issues such as forgiveness, injustice, thankfulness, big questions, identity and stillness. 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 the school day has finished.
Our Journey so far in Malta
Way back in 2013, Fr Paul Chetcuti SJ and Fr Reuben Gauci who at that time were the Diocesan Coordinators for the Spiritual Development in Church Schools and State schools, respectively, immediately recognised the potential of Prayer Spaces in the UK. Therefore, they participated in a training seminar in London organised by Prayer Spaces in Schools UK and invited Phil Togwell and his team to train chaplains, educators, and youth leaders about prayer spaces. With the help of a team of voluntary educators, a training seminar was organised in January 2014. In a few months, prayer spaces caught like wildfires on the Maltese islands, with more than 200 prayer spaces held in various state, independent and church schools, retreats, summer schools and other organisations.
Over the years, the Spiritual Development in Schools unit, under the coordination of Fr Reuben Gauci alongside his pastoral workers, continued to work in promoting education and spiritual growth. At different times of the year, they are invited by schools, national educational agencies, entities, and collaborators to help them organise and run prayer spaces for them. They provide seminars, training workshops and support educators and pastoral chaplaincies in schools. The ongoing collaboration with Prayer Spaces in Schools in the UK, Germany, Austria, Netherlands, and other countries is essential. We meet together online and in person when it is possible to nurture a sense of collaboration, share inspiring stories and ideas and encourage each other to share this experience with more students, educators and families in our countries and beyond.
Prayer Spaces in Schools was officially launched as a project of 24-7 Prayer in 2010, along with a small team and the first iteration of the UK website. Since then, it has become a growing hub for the network of practitioners around the world who run prayer spaces in schools.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and with the growing concerns about the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people, perhaps prayer spaces are needed more than ever before. It’s likely that many of the prayer spaces in schools over the coming months will be themed around ‘recovery’, and we are creating and adapting new resources in response to this.