This year I’ve read not a few blog posts/tweets debating the appropriateness of using mobile devices in church – especially to tweet sermons. As usual I’m late commenting…I do tend to percolate before I pour.
(Interesting. I used to say ‘brew’, when I drank more tea than I did coffee. Now I drink more coffee, I percolate. Fascinating. Or not.)
Every time I’ve read a post on this I’m reminded of Quiet Coaches on trains, where (supposedly) mobiles etc. are not used in a way to disturb other passengers. I do wonder if, in a culture that is only getting more and more gadget-heavy, we will end up having a congregational Quiet Zone when we meet together as the gathered Church.
I tweet. I blog. But I confess when someone has a mobile out beside me and is tapping it during a service, I do get distracted. (Perhaps I need to learn how to listen in a distracted age – more on that in a later post). I’m not being disapproving and grumpy, just honest. The flickering light and movement in the corner of my eye divert my attention. I don’t find it helpful. Even if they’re only tweeting the sermon.
But, I understand there are those who do find it helpful. Those for whom it aids listening, instead of interrupting listening. Perhaps if I was tapping into my own device it wouldn’t bother me, but I tend to need to listen intently to take things in. I use my Kindle to read the bible in church, but it’s a Kindle Touch and therefore not backlit, so I would hope it’s not distracting. But when I tap on the screen to turn the page, I sometimes notice my neighbour look – usually from mere curiosity.
Curiosity – even that can divert our attention!
So what to do? How do we not create stumbling blocks for one another? There’s no easy answer in a rapidly changing age – we are a huge spread of generational and personal preferences – some like it, some don’t. Are we going to have to inaugurate areas of the church sanctuary that are mobile free for those who find it too distracting? In the future, will this be the only way to prevent people choosing one church congregation over another simply because they do or don’t allow the use of mobile devices?
Perhaps we will end up with Quiet Services in the style of the Quiet Coach? Splitting the congregation into those who like and those who dislike…is this valid? Or healthy? What do you think?
I think, above all things, we need to be respectful of one another. If this means having a particular corner where we know we won’t distract people, so be it. And if we get the sensation we’re distracting the speakers/preachers themselves, we need to ask ourselves – how important is it for me to tweet, compared to being respectful to the needs of others?
There will be times when we need to put our phones away, regardless of our personal preferences. Because if we can’t bring ourselves to do that, we are under the wrong masters.
Related posts by others:
- Tweeting from the Pew (Richard Littledale)
Two from Andy Goodliff: