Church of England Diocese of Chichester Shoreham Beach

First Thoughts: Life-long digital learning

9 Aug 2020, 11 a.m.

Life-long learning they used to call it, and it is surprising what things we have to get used to and learn, even in our more mature decades.

Those of us who have latched onto ZOOM, for example, have had to learn quickly the significance of the tiny outline figure at the top of the page. If he (or is it a she? My eyesight’s not what it was) is wearing a red sash then you are “muted”. That means no one can hear you no matter how loudly you shout, and your hymn singing will always be a mime.

But the master of ceremonies has the power to “unmute” you. I had never heard that word until this year. I think, actually, it should be “demute”, but there you go.

You know you are “demuted” because the little man (or is it woman?) loses the pretty sash. If you get clever at this you can “unmute” yourself, but only in defined circumstances.

This business could catch on, of course, and there are people with hearing aids who have used such strategies before, though without the sash.

I want to say that I think we are too easily muted when it comes to speaking about our faith. I’m not suggesting that that we keep rushing up to people and asking if they are saved, nor am I wishing that we all sought to convert everyone we meet. Those approaches are counter-productive.

But I do think we could be more articulate in letting people we meet know that we say our prayers, or that we try to respond to the teachings of Jesus, or go to church. For many, “God” and “Christ” are simply swear words, and the real faith is rarely articulated even in sensitive ways.

I remember going years ago to take a service in a Northumberland country church and finding that one of the pillars of the congregation was someone I had worked with for four years. My faith was advertised by my dog collar; she had never indicated any Christian affiliation at all.

You will remember the story from the Acts of Apostles of how Philip met an Ethiopian official on the road who was reading the Bible as he was carried along. When asked if he understood, he replied, “How can I understand unless someone explains it to me?” (Acts 8:31)

If faith is rarely mentioned in a constructive, positive way, then it will not be understood. We need to throw away our sashes and speak out more.

God Bless

Peter Wolfenden

P.S. I continue to learn…!

Apparently it is not a little man on my screen, nor yet a little woman, but in fact a little microphone! I hope the point remains valid. Not a word.