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The Devil can be in the Digital

A major pharmaceutical company is presently using the phrase 'Prescribe Kindness'. That's a good maxim for any time, but now more than ever. The word 'kind', like 'nice', can get a bad press, as a bit weak and wishy-washy. Far from it. St Paul is clear: 'Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you' (Ephesians 4.32).

I am so very aware of the anxiety and vulnerability that is rife in our communities at present - and our church family is no exception. Nor am I. One of my friends is critically ill with the virus.

Isolation makes it much worse, when our window on the world is shrunk by forces beyond our control. We risk losing our sense of perspective, and we suffer, in terms of our mental health, and our emotional and spiritual well-being. Our heightened self-awareness can begin to blunt our awareness of the sensibilities and needs of others. The shadows overwhelm, and we seek outlets for our fear.

Social media is a lifeline for many at the present time. For others, it is yet another source of angst. I am firmly in this second category. I have never made a secret of my own mental health issues, and have learned over many years that too much exposure to social media is hugely detrimental to my well-being. As I say, some will not understand that at all. But it is true for me. I am relieved, and thankful, to be part of a team who can share in the streaming of worship and other kinds of online support, not least Devin, who is working so hard to support this ministry right now.

I know how grateful so many of you are for all that we are doing. I know that many of you are using online media and devices for the first time, and that it's not always easy to get used to. I know that many feel they want to comment on posts, feeling that this is an essential connection at a time they feel very alone.

A number of clergy in all denominations are being surprised by the tone and language that some are employing: seemingly forgetting that a post on social media is not private, but can be seen by everyone. To some extent Great St Mary's clergy have found that to be the case too. I, and most of my colleagues, have received emails which have been offensive and hurtful; and that is not acceptable.

So, as we enter Passiontide, and seek a closer walk with God, and companionship with his Son, I want to gently invite people to reflect on what I say. Being separated from each other provides time to prayerfully consider our common humanity and our shared frailty. It is also a time for seeking to build one another up, with generosity of spirit, and in the love of Christ.


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