Monday, October 18, 2004

Jamming Cell Phones in Church

This is a great little article about the growing use of cell phone blockers in various public places-most notably in a few churches. One of the priest’s comments is telling. He tells the journalist that people seem to no longer understand that Mass is about communication with God, not with your cell phone. True to our fiercely independent nature, the U.S. is apparently the only country where these blockers are illegal.

I think this raises another opportunity to think about the usage of media and technology in a church service. Specifically, what makes the use of one technology obtrusive and the use of another helpful? I think we typically accept some media as helpful without reflecting, and conversely, we take some forms of technology as distracting without reflecting. For instance, is there a way cell phones can be a benefit, and not a distraction? I don’t think so. Is there the chance that the media we typically use can be a distraction rather than a benefit? I think that possibility exists.

Have you ever found yourself toggling between a large-screen projection of a speaker and the speaker him or herself? I know the projection screens can help in large venues, but in a venue where you can see the person without aid, the screen can be an extreme distraction. Additionally, it adds to the level of separation between the speaker and the listener. Have you ever found yourself reading a power-point presentation instead of listening and reflecting on the worship song or sermon? I know power-point helps people learn words to songs they don’t know, but so does involvement and repetition. While media can be helpful in a handful of ways, it often serves to separate us from engagement with what is going on in the service.

This is not intended to be an invective against all media in worship services, but I do think we should be a little more reflective from time to time. Some churches are actually spending money to eliminate technology; maybe we should reflect on what is sometimes an unquestioning use of the latest and greatest gadget.

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