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Fr Ray Hemingray has shared his thought for today, Sunday 28th March 2021.

‘Communication’

During the pandemic which we have endured for a year now, communication has been in some ways a problem and in other ways a blessing. When we have been in lockdown, we have not been able to meet family and friends and talk face to face. But we have found other (to many of us, new) methods of communicating.

I have to confess that, before March last year, I had never heard of Zoom, which enables groups of people to see each other and talk on a computer screen, or a tablet or a smartphone. This has enabled us to communicate, not only with family and friends, but to continue business meetings and meetings with friends in societies, clubs and in other areas of life where we share common interests. I now regularly have at least 4 or 5 Zoom sessions each week.

One of the successes of the past year has been that we have been able to have ‘virtual’ church services, either using Zoom, or using recordings on YouTube on our computer screens. Whilst before March last year we would have been lucky to have 3 or 4 people turning up for Evening Prayer at Castor Church on a Sunday Evening, the number of attendees at one of our Sunday services at 6.00pm on Zoom (of which we have now had 48) has only dropped below 30 twice during the last 20 weeks. The highest number was 43 on the Sunday before Christmas.

Many people watch our Rector’s recorded services and reflections on YouTube on Sunday mornings. We have also had on Zoom, finishing last Wednesday, a series of five services of Evening Prayer for Lent, incorporating reflections on Lenten hymns from five different speakers, at which we have usually had over 20 attendees. I know from comments I have received via email, that several people have appreciated these services and found them helpful. So one benefit of the pandemic is that, through modern technology, we have been able to bring together more people to share and enjoy regular worship and communicate with each other.

As an aside, I am reminded of a funeral I took at the Crematorium last month. The family tribute to the departed (aged 87) contained this sentence: ‘Brian continued his long service with Pearl Assurance, retiring in 1992, quoting that computers and telephones would never take off’. Well, they have taken off, so thank goodness for Brian’s mis-judgment!

Modern technology has provided a means of maintaining communication and relationships and has also given us the opportunity to gain wider knowledge. Bill Gates, one of the founders of Microsoft, once said: “I’m a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms that they’re interested in.”

One of the dangers of communication is that it is instant, perhaps too instant. How many of us have dashed off an email, hit the Send button, and then regretted something we have said in the email? I don’t know if Prince Philip uses email, but I did find this quote from him: “As so often happens, I discover that it would have been better to keep my mouth shut.”

But technology has its limitations. For example, a doctor cannot examine you over a telephone call or even a Zoom call, and we can’t hug our loved ones over the internet.

Another area where computers aren’t the answer is in personal prayer. Prayer is about having a quiet time, turning our attention to God, talking to God and (importantly) listening to God.

And, unlike the instant nature of the internet, prayer should be something we should do regularly and take our time over. There is no prize for finishing prayer quickly, and it should be a long-term commitment. The ancient Greeks had an interesting race at their Olympic games. The winner was not the runner who reached the finishing post first, but the one who arrived first with his torch still lit. So there’s a challenge for us all – to reach the finishing line of our lives with the flame of our communication with and love for God still burning brightly. Amen.

Fr Ray