In the second of our series of Lent reflections from a variety of voices within the Scottish Episcopal Church, second year ordinand Dr Lisa Curtice of the Scottish Episcopal Institute weighs up the pros and cons of a digital detox as part of Lenten discipline.
As we drove home through the snow flurries from St Mary’s Cathedral Glasgow, with the beauty of the Ash Wednesday liturgy and music still seeping into our hearts and intentions for the Lenten journey ahead, I was scrabbling with my iPad. There was a time when my iPad and I were inseparable; when my vision was poor, it was my window on participation, the means by which agendas, papers and prayers became open to me and under my control again, independent of the goodwill of others to provide large print (something, by the way, in which St Mary’s is exemplary).
But why did I look for digital engagement now? Because I felt the need to worship in solidarity with another community, those who cannot necessarily travel to, or take part in, services in a church building. At 9pm on Ash Wednesday, the online community Disability&Jesus (@DisabilityJ) began a live service. With the strapline, ‘alone together’, this community provides a way of joining in the daily office online. (See them also at http://anordinaryoffice.org.uk ).
The Ash Wednesday Service was simple, reflective and profound. Led by the Reverend Katie Tupling, it included the Lord’s Prayer in British Sign Language and opportunities to join in, for example by tweeting “Amen”. Like all their posts, it was accessible and sensitive – “Be as still as your body allows”. That night, I was doubly blessed.
While digital detox may be a useful Lenten discipline, perhaps an even deeper call is to open ourselves to different ways of being community together. We cannot always be with our fellow Christians in person when bad news strikes or the night feels too long, but we can hear and acknowledge each other in other ways on our Lenten pilgrimage. The online Ash Wednesday liturgy asked, “will you dare to share your riches in common and minister to each other in need?” I’ll tweet “I will” to that.