Tag Archives: st john

Morning prayers

Yesterday, at St John’s church on Bethnal Green I noticed that they have morning prayer at 9am. I don’t think I’ve ever been to morning prayers before at an Anglican service.

So today I got into work extra-early and at three minutes to nine I slipped off to church.

As I walked through the park I wondered how many people would be there. I enjoyed the smell of blossom from the trees and the brilliant colour in the feathers of the feral pigeons stomping about the grass. The sun is shining and it feels good to be alive. As I walked the bells of St John’s chimed to mark the hour and then struck nine. I would be just a minute late.

Except that when I arrived at the front of the church and at the steps I stood happily on yesterday, it felt deserted. The sign was there, advertising morning prayer. But the door was resolutely closed. I realised then that there were 3 huge sets of double doors, but all were locked shut.

I stood on the steps for a moment and took in the morning sounds of traffic, of people rushing by and the smell, wafting in from somewhere, of chocolate pastries.

Perhaps there’s another way into the church I thought. I set off around the Roman Road side of the church. High above me, I could see vaguely through the windows of the church that some lights were on and I couldn’t help but think to myself ‘the lights are on but nobody’s home’.

At the back of the church I noticed a winding set of steps and a woman just going in through a door at the top of the steps. I rushed after her, up the steps and pushed into a locked door. After a few seconds, the woman answered. I said that I was here for morning prayers and asked if this was the way in. I was told that the priest wasn’t in and the doors weren’t open yet but if I waited, she would open a door at the front soon. I thanked her, but decided just then that I might have morning prayers in another way.

I walked back to my office. Praying.

So I had my morning prayers anyway, in the sunshine and on the streets of Bethnal Green. I’d still like to attend an Anglican morning prayer, but I might check in advance the precise arrangements before I try to go again. 

From the steps of St John

This lunch break I went to the church of St John on Bethnal Green. I stood on the steps and enjoyed the view. It is a good vantage point to look west down the Bethnal Green Road and north and south along the Cambridge Heath Road. Two parks can be seen from the steps and one end of the Roman Road. There’s a lot of bustle. 

It reminded me, in a way, of Rainham Marshes. I was almost invisible on those steps, like being in a hide. And the more I stood still and watched, the more I saw. I caught glimpses of other people’s lives. 

And without having particularly intended to, I began to pray. Holding each person that I saw in the Light and wishing God’s grace upon them, that they might share with someone else today. 

After a while, a man came and joined me on the steps. He didn’t speak to me. Then he left, into the church. And he came back. We both stood on the steps. I wanted to ask if he was praying too, but I didn’t feel the need to speak. 

A few minutes later, I left the church steps and continued on my walk.