People-watching and answers to prayer (@UnshaunSheep)

An interesting thing happened to me the other week at church. I worship at an Anglican Cathedral and, on a whim, I decided to sit somewhere I had never sat before (steady now!). This was at the very back of church. I did a bit of people-watching from back there and, as people went forward for communion, I watched and prayed, asking God which of these people I should perhaps look out for after the service.

A young couple I had never seen before were sitting a few rows in front of me. Were they there having their Banns of Marriage read? Were they new to the area and might welcome a friendly hello afterwards?

Some visitors who had arrived to look around the Cathedral rather than attend the service were walking nearby. The Cathedral’s policy is not to discourage visitors during services, so having been welcomed at the door they were quietly looking around, map of interesting features of the building in hand.  They seemed interested in what was going on in the service too and, as the choir started a rather delicious anthem by Palestrina, I noticed they sat at the side, listening and seemed to be being drawn in. Maybe these were people I ought to seek out and say hello to afterwards?

A member of the congregation who hadn’t been around for a while as he’d been visiting friends and family on other continents was also nearby. I made a mental note that I must make sure he knew he’d been missed…

So I went up for communion and sat back down and, again, I prayed for those people I didn’t know. I asked that they would know God’s presence by being here. And I asked how should I serve them? What happened next was interesting…


Image: Seed Resources

The post-communion prayers started and the young couple noticed the visitors perched nearby. The man popped over and gave the visitors his service booklet which meant they could follow what was going on. Meanwhile, the returning member of our congregation also noticed them and gave them his hymnbook for the final hymn as he shared with the person next to him who, I noticed, chatted to him after the service, clearly welcoming him back after his long trip.

And after the service, the visitors popped over to the coffee area and bumped into me, commenting how friendly everyone here was.

My role? Seemingly, to watch and pray had been something quite special in itself: observing how the Christian community in our church automatically welcomed each other and tapped into that ancient ministry of hospitality which the Benedictine monks who founded the place over a millennium ago would have heartily approved of.

So how is this helpful to us as disciples online?

Colossians 4:2 – Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Sitting back and prayerfully watching others minister to each other in online contexts can be an excellent reminder of this aspect of Being Church. An affirming Tweet. The sharing of a friend’s pet project onto one’s Facebook timeline. An encouragement. Yes, it may be that you are the person who does the sharing, the encouraging, the affirming too. But just watch and pray every now and again: be mindful of how others are serving, loving each other and helping each other in their walk with God. Watch, pray and give thanks.

About Nick Morgan

Nick Morgan, Church of England ordinand based at a welcoming, bijou-sized northern Cathedral. Writer and composer. Tweets as @Unshaunsheep