Frensham Village Churches

Letter from the Vicarage - November 2017


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Recently Mark and I managed to get away for a belated 30th wedding anniversary trip to Florence and Venice, which as we love art, sculpture and music were ideal destinations. We had great meals out – you can’t beat a good bowl of real Italian pasta in the ambience of an authentic setting, can you? I have to admit the spaghetti Bolognese scene in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp did come to mind a few times!  

“Theees ees the night, the most glooooorious night, the night of ‘belle notte’… !”

However, one meal stands in my memory sadly not because of the great food, romance or ambience, but because the group of eastern / oriental people on the table next to us. All 6 of them were engrossed with their mobile phones and completely ignoring each other and even disregarding the waiters who were trying to take their order and later deliver their food. Four of the group had earphones in and were texting or messaging on their touch screens; another seemed to be animatedly playing a game on his phone, whilst the final person nearest to us was watching various You Tube recordings of people injuring themselves whilst attempting ridiculous feats all to very annoying repetitive music. This chap didn’t even have his earphones in so that all those of us sitting nearest to him could hear was the monotonous music and painful screams emanating from his phone together with his laughing out loud at the contestant’s misfortunes and misadventures…

Quite frankly I was not only astounded at these young people’s total obsession with their phones but also greatly irritated by the utter lack of perception of or respect for anyone around them, even for those of their own group! Each was in their own little virtual world which clearly was not the beautiful world of Venice, even though they were in the actual place! What a waste of a plane fare! They could have stayed at home and not disturbed others so rudely…

I asked Mark across the candlelit table, “What is the point of them being here?” I felt angry, sad and upset that people would so disregard and devalue those who were trying to serve them and I am therefore not in the least bit surprised that the Venetian government is trying to reduce the number of tourists visiting, if the majority are behaving ungratefully like this.

A friend, when I told him this story, said, “Mobile phones whilst supposedly improving communication paradoxically cause more separation, alienation and isolation from the rest of society, and can be much more damaging than any ‘old fashioned bullying in the playground…”

This is quite a dilemma, isn’t it? Because mobile phones are actually very useful, aren’t they? 

I use mine like virtually everyone else, in a number of ways for work, in order to keep in communication with whoever needs me wherever I am. However, I set boundaries (only in an emergency really) as to when I use it when in company because people are always my priority. I am also very happy to switch it off or leave it at home if I am off duty, as it were!

I think it is useful to remember Jesus’ teaching here. He used the example of money and said, (and I have expanded this) ‘money (per se) is not the root of all evil, but the love (addiction or dependence) of money is…’ Jesus also said you cannot serve God and Mammon, meaning it is not healthy for us to be distracted and lured away from the true purpose of our being with earthly wealth or possessions. Following this argument some may ask, ‘what then is the true purpose of our being?’

Well, Jesus showed us this in his life, death and resurrection. He joined heaven and earth together in love so revealing our purpose and journey to be the same as his… “Love each other as I have loved you”, he said. So we should be about togetherness, love, relationship, communication, community, communion…and primarily valuing each other… and not being self-absorbed with a phone…

When we, this month, remember all those brave military personnel who gave up their lives so that we may live freely today and live with gratefulness and respect for all; if we are not valuing each other as they valued our lives – enough to give theirs up for our future; if we are becoming mechanised living in a small, virtual, ironically disconnected phone world; if we are being manipulated and brainwashed by the enticements of electronic gadgets over the care and connexion with people;  then we have indeed lost the plot and this devalues the sacrifice they made. 

Over the last 6 ½ years I have been in this parish, the attendance for the yearly Remembrance Service at the Village Memorials, the Royal British Legion and in church has been reducing. The lure of Sunday trading and other distractions including phones have all contributed to this reduction. So this year I call everyone to really show their gratefulness and please come along – put your phones down for this short period of time and come and remember. Come and pay your respects with thankfulness, humility and grace.

 With love, hope and prayers