The Christian tradition of meditation and “Christian contemplation”
Many of our schools have introduced some form of Mindfulness Meditation as part of the normal
spiritual practice of the school. The benefits of having periods of silent reflection are well attested. Schools here and overseas report that as meditation becomes established in the school, and as students become practiced at the art of being still and being present, the culture of the school and the performance of students, as measured by a wide range of markers, improves.
That is a side-effect for us, however. We encourage students to be still and open to God not primarily because of the emotional and psychological benefits, but because that is a key way through which God reaches us with God’s presence and love. That is why we offer here some ways of digging into the riches of the Christian tradition of meditation and “Christian contemplation”. In conjunction with the Presbyterian Schools’ Office, we have created a website full of resources for exploring many forms of Christian Contemplation in secondary school. We are also producing a number of small, easily accessible pamphlets to resource teachers and chaplains wishing to introduce specifically Christian Meditation. They will be available mid-2020 as booklets, and are attached here in the meantime as printable documents. Although these are designed for Primary School, they will be able to be used by secondary teachers as well.
We also have a very special resource written for our schools by Malcolm Gordon: singer, songwriter, theologian and creative liturgist. He has written 7 short, beautiful songs embedded in soundscapes which can lead us into thought, prayer, silence and contemplation. See, “A Pocketful of Smooth Stones” below.
A Pocketful of Smooth Stones
Seven quiet, beautiful songs to lead us into meditation on God as God encounters us through our lives of grief and joy. These were written specifically for our chaplains, but are a gift to all.
Prayer cards for primary classrooms
These cards make it easy for anyone to lead 5-10 minute times of prayer daily. Built around the liturgical year, one side of each card leads you through gathering, focusing, a space for a prayer or prayer activity, a collect, and closing response. The flip side gives you a different "prayer activity" to fit into that slot each day, all following the same theme for the week. Minimal additional resources are necessary. Follow this link for sample cards and information on buying them (at the price it costs us to have them printed) from the Office.
Two Minutes Silence
How can we introduce times of silence into school life? Samuel Marsden Collegiate is doing so: equipping staff to begin the day and follow lunch with 2 minutes of silence. If they choose, they can simply keep the silence, but the chaplain also supplies them with a prayer or meditation for the week. Find resources to get started here.
Photos and prayers to aid contemplation
A powerpoint of photos taken by Kelvin Wright, with short prayers for each. Rather than use all of them at once, we suggest you choose one to have in view if your school has periods of silence or mindfulness. Let those times turn into prayer and openness to God.
SECONDARY: Christian Contemplation
This website, created in conjunction with the Presbyterian Schools' Office, is a rich resource for information on Christian Contemplative practices and guidance on how to teach them in our secondary schools.
MIDDLE SCHOOL: How do I listen to God?
This is a unit of work prepared for our Middle School Theology course, but which could be used any time for secondary school classes. It takes ideas from our Christian Contemplation website and draws them into a connected series of lessons.
PRIMARY: Christian Meditation Explained
What do we mean by Christian meditation, and what don't we mean? Where did the idea come from? What's the difference between meditation and contemplation? This little resource draws together numerous common questions and gives straightforward, clear answers.
PRIMARY: Teaching Christian Meditation to Children
What is Christian meditation? Why teach it to children? How do we teach it to children? This little booklet guides you through how and why you can introduce your class gently and simply to this ancient practice. Designed specifically for primary classes, it can nevertheless be easily used for secondary as well.
PRIMARY: Leading Children into Silence
This is a "how to" resource. Four simple ways of leading a group of children, young or older, into silence naturally and easily. Designed so that classroom teachers as well as RE teachers and chaplains can aid their students in this way.
A helpful list of places you can go for further resources on teaching Christian contemplation to children.
The Contemplative Network
For those who want to explore contemplation more deeply for themselves, there are support groups and retreats run by the Contemplative Network of NZ. The Contemplative Network is a virtual network that supports the development and sustaining of contemplative practices within a Christian framework. We are grounded in the Wisdom tradition through Centering Prayer and we aim to be supportive and inclusive of all Christian contemplative practices. We are open to people of any denomination and none, of pew sitters and armchair mystics.
Archbishop of Canterbury on Prayer
The Archbishop of Canterbury has produced a series of accessible, appealing talks about prayer: an introduction, asking, learning to lament, saying sorry, giving thanks, and wonder.
There are a number of apps that help with daily prayer. This is one recommended by the Archbishop of Canterbury specifically for meditation.