It was a beautiful Sunday evening when we met at Pier Park in Panama City Beach. We had been invited by our priest, Mary Alice Mathison, to participate in a prayer walk. We were both a bit anxious because we had not participated in anything like this before, but Mary Alice explained that we would simply walk quietly observing our surroundings and seeking God as we went. We started walking on the sidewalk to the east down Front Beach Road. As we went, there was a constant parade of cars and golf carts whizzing by as they processed away from Pier Park. We continued our walk for about 30 minutes and as we went along, the fervor of Pier Park waned slightly. With God’s grace we were able to cross to the north side of Front Beach road to begin our prayer walk back to the west and towards Pier Park. As we got closer to our starting point the music blaring from cars and golf carts increased. The sidewalks filled with people and we quickly found ourselves in the middle of hundreds of people. At this point we decided to sit on a bench right in the middle of this bee hive of humanity and seek God.
For approximately 10 minutes we just sat and observed. It was so loud, chaotic, and most everyone was so self-absorbed and many were desperately trying to bring attention upon themselves. The most inventive of these was a young man wearing nothing but a Speedo and flip flops. He had a healthy beer belly and would walk up behind young girls startling them and then asking if they’d like to take a picture with him….creepy! This experience was so exhausting and fortunately we continued our prayer walk to the west. Despite the noise and chaos of Front Beach road we sprinkled God’s love about as we went by leaving sea shells inscribed with messages of God’s love, faith, and forgiveness.
Shortly we came upon a beach access and made our way to the beautiful, white sugary sands of Panama City Beach. The sun was very low on the horizon and we were only 10 minutes away from sunset. The mood quickly changed and God’s presence seemed to be everywhere. The loud noise was gone and a quite peace fell over everything and everyone on that beach. We slowly made our way down the beach towards our starting point which was the actual pier that extends over 1000 feet into the Gulf of Mexico. As we approached the pier we again saw hundreds of people, but each and every one of them were silently watching the setting sun, captivated by the moment, all watching with a single focus. At that moment God was everywhere, on every face, in that quite moment, in that setting sun. It was an incredibly spiritual moment for us all, especially the three of us that had started our prayer walk journey down Front Beach road just an hour before. Through this experience we met God face-to-face in that sunset, and our hope is that others did too.
To learn more about how to do your own Prayer Walk and find other evangelism resources, visit the Episcopal Church Evangelism Toolkit at: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/evangelism-resources.
To learn more about the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast Evangelism Taske Force, visit www.diocgc.org/evangelism-task-force.
Top photo: A picture of one of the sea shells left behind during the prayer walkers. Photo credit: Carl Walters.
Bottom photo: Prayer walkers were gifted with this sunset at the end of their journey. Photo credit: Carl Walters.