25 March 2010
Pray as you go with Orison
"Have you always lived in heaven or did you live on earth when you were young?"
That was one of the many questions put to God by pupils at Pilgrims Way primary school in Farnham. Every year group from year 6 down to two nursery classes were given the opportunity to express themselves by Orison, an organisation with one aim: to simply allow children to experience God in their own school context.
There are no text books or philosophy classes, as in RE. Instead, there are neon lights, plasma balls, maps and bubble tubes, used in a quirky and attractive way to explain either specific Bible verses or to highlight Christian values.
The team behind the Orison project is Hugo Anson and Rachel Warwick. Hugo has a pastoral background and Rachel has expertise in running activities for pupils across the UK. They are supported by 24-7 Prayer and many dedicated volunteers from women groups, members of youth groups and parents. Rachel Halliwell, one of the mothers of the pupils said: "The project is exciting and it is even more significant because of the theme."
A prayer room is usually set up within the premises of the school and the team transforms the area into a vibrant and charming sanctuary where it's easy to relax and pray. Generally, the room is divided into zones. It can be the Image zone, Sorry zone, World zone or Bubble zone.
For instance, the image zone uses a picture of a hand to illustrate Isaiah 49:16 "See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands" then there is a short explanation of how it can be applied to individual lives. It also invites the pupils to write their names followed by a message of encouragement.
Generally, the children react positively to the whole experience. A 14- year old said: "The best bit was the image zone. It really made me think about myself and who I am."
The workshops are held during recreational hours or after lunch and the kids are free to come round or walk away. Children from any or no religion are welcomed - on average around 100 children queue to enter the Orison area at lunchtime.
Pilgrim Way's deputy head mistress, Liz Savage said: "The children adored it, the chance to be able to voice their worries was exceptionally helpful, and they came to me to talk about concerns they had in ways they hadn't really done before."
Orison strives to comply with the rules and regulations of their host school while sharing the values of Christ without compromise. It can be applied in schools, churches, youth groups and community groups.
Hugo Anson said: "Orison is all about experience because it's evocative and allows the child to unwind and feel confident. Most of all, the activities help the children to reflect about themselves, others, the world and about God."