incommunicado

Our phone line is out of action at home. I don’t know why. One minute it was working fine, the next… nothing. So if you are trying to contact us at home, sorry. It also means that our internet access is down. If you send me an email I can read it on my Blackberry but may not be able to do anything like read attachments for a while. Sorry.

It is amazing how debilitating it is when something as simple as the phone line breaks. We rely so much on technology. Last week I wanted to contact someone for whom I had no phone number and who was ‘ex-directory’. I resorted to ancient technology and wrote a letter… by hand! My fountain pen must have felt as if it was its birthday!

Now the astute among you will be wondering how I am writing this blog and publishing it online if I have no internet access at home. Well, I am in the Minister’s office at church, where the internet is still working. I have to make the most of it before I head back home and go more or less incommunicado.

We've been cut off - by line fault, not for non-payment!

I have been thrilled recently at how many people who are new to our church, or are visiting us, have found us from our church website (link here if you are interested). I think it is a lovely design and easy to navigate (kudos to Sara Lewis for the design and maintenance). But it is clearly one way in which people are looking to find a church. It does help us that our name ‘Colchester Baptist Church’ contains two of the most likely words that people who are looking for a church in Colchester will type into a search engine: ‘Colchester’ and ‘church’. It means that we appear on the first page of results. I am tempted to suggest that we change our name to ‘AAA Colchester Baptist Church’ if others start cottoning on to this!

The thread that ties all of these disparate thoughts together is the realisation that technology like the internet is an integral part of our lives, and we miss it when we can’t access it. I can say ‘our’ with confidence because you are reading this, which means you are online. Those who are not online will be blissfully unaware of the bloggerel I write. As churches we need to realise that the internet is here to stay and engage appropriately with the technology.

Perhaps in the future we will have virtual  online congregations alongside our physical gathered congregation – using social networking or video conferencing to engage with what is happening in the service. When it comes to the offering they can hit ‘donate’ and go to a separate secure page in which they can input card / bank details. When it comes to the sermon they could have the Powerpoint graphics streamed to their computer at the same time as they go on the screen in church. There is scope for online baptisms with streaming from a local swimming pool (pun intended) linked to the church. Prayers could be submitted by email. And if there is a response to be made a pop-up could appear at the right moment: “Do you wish to go forward? Yes / No”

This is a bit tongue in cheek (I hope you realise that) but at the same time, if we fail to communicate in the language of the people we are in danger of reversing the effect of Pentecost and making it impossible for people to hear the good news in their own language.

To help you learn the new language here are a few new words, taken from last night’s sermon:

What would you think if I said that someone had a ‘microwave mentality’? It doesn’t mean that they love ready meals. It means that their attitude to life is that if something can’t be done in five minutes it’s not worth doing.

How about ‘shoop da whoop’? It’s a computer gaming term and is the sound that describes a laser gun being fired.

Or how about ‘chairdrobe’? This is the art of piling all your clothes on a chair in place of a wardrobe or chest of drawers. Apparently if the chairdrobe is full you can use the floordrobe.

This Sunday I will mostly be speaking about…

Is it just me? I find myself increasingly irritated by the news in the morning. We are told what has happened overnight. That’s great. That’s important. We are told about some things that are happening today. That’s helpful, even if it is a bit like advertising (especially when the ‘news’ is about a TV programme that is on later!). But what irritates me is when we are told what someone will be saying in a speech later.

Why? Why do we need to be told what is in the speech? Why not wait for the speech and then tell us what was said? And if we know what will be in the speech, why bother making the speech at all? It all seems rather silly to me. It would be like me announcing what will be in my sermon later this week. Yes, I know I sometimes say what the theme will be, but that is usually because something I have read or considered feels important then, and is not an attempt at trailing the sermon in advance to gain publicity.

Trailer
Trailers… pah!

I reckon this trend could probably be linked to the growth in the numbers of publicists and ‘spin doctors’. I suspect that the thinking is that if you announce the theme of the speech before it happens you can show how important / relevant / in touch with public opinion / controversial the speech will be and generate interest in it. It has certainly happened today with an announcement of the theme of a speech by David Cameron being trailed on the morning news and then picked up in a radio phone-in. By the time of the speech it becomes the topic everyone is talking about on that day and so become even more relevant.

There is a sense in which Jesus did that. During his ministry his theme was often about ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand / near / coming’. It was breaking in as he preached, healed, taught, blessed, encouraged, rebuked, challenged and invited. But it came in more spectacularly at Easter. On the cross. In the tomb. Out of the tomb!

This Sunday morning (unsurprisingly) the theme is Palm Sunday. I am not going to tell you what aspect of the theme we are taking. But is it possible that Palm Sunday was a trailer for Easter week? We are participating in the Passion Experience at our church. If you join in you will be sent a series of texts or emails during Easter week that reflect the events and help you to consider what was happening. The tension rises. The action gets more vivid. The dramatic music swells.

If you want to join in text ‘cbc’ to 07797 803 730 or visit www.thepassionexperience.org.uk/cbc and you can sign up for free. Make it the thing you are talking and thinking about next week.

technogrumpiness

What do you do when your computer refuses to talk to the printer? This has happened to me a couple of times recently and it is rather annoying. In fact, on one occasion it was quite disabling as I was unable to print out the pages of a document I needed for a meeting.

Old Linotype 1The most annoying thing is that the printers (there have been two different ones) are in the same room as the computer. I have even picked up the laptop and shown it the printer – just in case it has forgotten what it looks like and needs a reintroduction:

“Laptop, let me introduce printer. Printer, this is laptop. Please will you talk with each other now?”

I don’t know whether my computer has been insulted by a printer in the past and now is giving them the silent treatment or whether the printers have heard unpleasant things about the computer and so decide that the best thing to do is not to listen to it.

Either way, anthropomorphisms aside, the printer and computer have failed to communicate and that means that what needed to be done has not been done.

I guess the same is true of when God tries to send me messages and I am not listening, am busy doing other things or would rather not be bothered. In those circumstances what needed to be done has not been done. Someone has not received a word of encouragement or sympathy. Someone else has wondered whether God is interested in them because they did not hear from me. Another person has perhaps missed an opportunity for an encounter with God through me.

I wonder if God gets as frustrated in those circumstances as I do when the printer and computer are in a mutual huff?

When a guy’s printer type began to grow faint, he called a local repair shop where a friendly man informed him that the printer probably needed only to be cleaned. 

Because the store charged £50 for such cleanings, he told him he might be better off reading the printer’s manual and trying the job himself. 

Pleasantly surprised by his candor, he asked, “Does your boss know that you discourage business?” 

“Actually, it’s my boss’s idea,” the employee replied sheepishly. “We usually make more money on repairs if we let people try to fix things themselves first.”

Or there’s the Dr Seuss approach to tech support:

      Here’s an easy game to play.
Here’s an easy thing to say:

If a packet hits a pocket on a socket on a port,
And the bus is interrupted as a very last resort,
And the address of the memory makes your floppy disk abort,
Then the socket packet pocket has an error to report!

If your cursor finds a menu item followed by a dash,
And the double-clicking icon puts your window in the trash,
And your data is corrupted ’cause the index doesn’t hash,
Then your situation’s hopeless, and your system’s gonna crash!

You can’t say this?
What a shame sir!
We’ll find you
Another game sir.

If the label on the cable on the table at your house,
Says the network is connected to the button on your mouse,
But your packets want to tunnel on another protocol,
That’s repeatedly rejected by the printer down the hall,

And your screen is all distorted by the side effects of gauss
So your icons in the window are as wavy as a souse,
Then you may as well reboot and go out with a bang,
‘Cause as sure as I’m a poet, the sucker’s gonna hang!

When the copy of your floppy’s getting sloppy on the disk,
And the microcode instructions cause unnecessary risk,
Then you have to flash your memory and you’ll want to RAM your ROM.
Quickly turn off the computer and be sure to tell your mum!

many are called but few want to be chosen

I am fascinated by what is happening to the England football team. They seriously underperformed at the recent World Cup and people have said it is because they were too tired. Well lots of the other teams at the World Cup have players who play in the English Premier League and their get up and go had not got up and gone.

Now we have a situation where Fabio Capello, the manager (for the non-football followers), has named a squad of players he wants to choose from for the friendly international against Hungary on Wednesday and subsequently two of them have said that they no longer want to play international football. Didn’t Fabio speak with them when he selected them? Did he simply assume that they would want to play because it was England?

It seems to me that there is a serious lack of communication going on there.


what not to do 1what not to do 3

Communication between people is one of the most important things that we can do. When I was a lawyer I handled some matrimonial cases and in all of them you could trace much of what led to the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship to a failure to communicate with each other. Perhaps one of them was hurt and did not tell the other, so the hurt festered. Perhaps one of them said cruel things to the other and did not apologise. Perhaps they forgot to tell each other that they loved each other and started to think that they did not. Perhaps they had started to talk about their own needs and rights rather than considering those of their partner first. Perhaps they had failed to be honest with each other.

Of course there are many other factors at work when a relationship breaks down, it’s not just about a failure to communicate properly. But it invariably exacerbates or exaggerates the problems.

That, of course, is also true of our relationship with God. It is weakened when we do not communicate clearly. That is not just about us praying more, but also about us listening, seeking God’s voice. It is about us reading the Bible and wanting to discover more about God and ourselves through it. It is about us being honest with God and ourselves. It is about apologies and forgiveness, conversation that involves all aspects of our lives, feelings and facts. God wants us to communicate with him, and he wants to communicate with us. The issue is really whether we give him the time and attention he deserves.

Communicate clearly…
Spotted in a toilet of an office:
Toilet out of order. Please use floor below.

In an office:
After tea break staff should empty the teapot and stand upside down on the draining board.

In lifts in Hong Kong:
When there is a fire, do not use the lift. (WHEN not if!)

An AST customer was asked by a manager to “send a copy of your defective disks to us”. A few days later, a letter arrived from the customer with a xeroxed copy of the disks.

A Dell manager was giving some help to a customer and told him to put the disk in the drive and close the door. The customer told the manager to hold on and was heard to put the phone down, get up from their chair, cross the room and close the door.

Compaq management had to consider changing the phrase “Press any key” in all their manuals because of the flood of calls asking where the “Any” key was.

“I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy. But that could change.” — Dan Quayle

“I want to make sure everybody who has a job wants a job” –George Bush, during his first Presidential campaign.