Robin Blount: ecumenical notes, cruise ship chaplaincy and lots more

On buying a new computer

My desktop computer had probably reached its use-by date. I'd bought it about eight or nine years ago and it had performed adequately all that time. But lately it had begun to behave erratically - not remembering to save work, running slowly, being hard to wake up from sleep. A bit like me in retirement! So it has been replaced by a later model of the same family, and so far the new one seems to be behaving itself. But, predictably, it's not quite like its predecessor. Yes, it's faster and its programmes are more up-to-date than my earlier ones, but there are a few changes that take a little more getting used to.

I've just stopped the grammar check, because sometimes deliberate errors are appropriate, and I don't want (dare I put it this way?) a foreign program telling me how to write English. And, of course, (and yes, I know I shouldn't begin a sentence with 'and') the presentation of a program on the screen has changed considerably with these new updates. It's a bit disconcerting and rather annoying to have to search around until I realise that what I want is wearing different clothes, so to speak.

The Amstrad recognised and met a need in those past times. It gave us a glimpse of what might be possible in the future, and gave us a suggestion of what might come next. It was a valuable tool in those early days of computing, long before the phrase 'word processor' gave way to 'computer'. But more subtle was the way in which even the Amstrad shifted our traditional way of using a typewriter or pen and paper into the new way of using a keyboard and email. Truly a seismic change in office procedure.

How many people nowadays still use typewriters or pen and paper? Very few, I imagine, and those who do are probably technophobes in other ways. Maybe there's an association for such folk, where traditional methods of yesteryear are celebrated and cherished. Maybe there are those who wish for the old ways to return, with all the charm and expressiveness that went with handwriting and sticky stamps.

The parable is obvious. The Church seems to resist moving away from its traditional expressions of the faith. Church worship language may have been modernised to a degree - replacing the thee and thou language, for example - but it has hardly changed since the middle ages and the theology has hardly changed since the Council of Nicaea in 325. Current discussions about Vision & Strategy and setting up 10,000 new lay-led churches could offer the opportunity to create something remarkable, but critics are already denouncing this as an assault on the historic church. What is that we are so keen to preserve? Will the world outside even notice? I think the world outside is more concerned with the world outside!

28 October 2021

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