In the living room of the house in which I grew up there was a big hi-fi system. It was a major piece of furniture. It has since disappeared, like the vinyl records. Now people use “iPods” with headphones or little speakers. iPods are digital music devices that are so small that they fit in your pocket. People also use their laptop computers to play their music, television and movies. Televisions may one day be replaced by personal systems on which individuals each watch their own shows. The new technology is fascinating, remarkable and from afar looks like it adds much to one’s life, but there is a cost that is not always counted nor named.
In the past many homes had big radios before the hi-fidelity systems and before that there were pianos. With each form of technological advancement it is my historical observation that our relationships have moved further away, dancing is a good example. It used to be line dances and partners dancing, then swinging throws and now today there are no partners often, just people bouncing up and down by themselves or actually into each other. Occasionally there are revivals of swing dancing or salsa that emerges or contra dances that act as a counter cultural throw back to another age.
In the same way we have lost the local Granges, meeting halls and pubs that served as meeting places where people regularly gathered. Televisions, telephones, computers and automobiles have all caused our lives to adapt in more and more individualistic and isolated ways. The last remnant in our culture ia the place of worship. It is the last place where people gather and sing together. It is the last place where public oration is regularly heard, and where people on a regular basis hear someone read aloud. And as the communal act of eating has become more isolated with television and busy schedules, the church covered dish supper is a great gathering place to leisurely share food with others.
All of the sacraments of the church revolve around touch. Whether eating, loving, forgiving, relating or being challenged in our outreach it is in touching each other and being touched that we are sustained and are known. It could be a simple handshake or the emotional touch of singing the same notes with someone next to us. There is a need we have that no amount of electronics can replace. As our culture and technology pulls ever so hard to separate, the church reminds us of the importance in our lives of dancing cheek to cheek, of eating across from someone, of laughing with the sound of someone beside us.