*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Present to God, not to the phone

19 February 2016

LENT started late for me this year. When I was a pious lay person (instead of the raddled old cleric I am now), I used to look ahead to Lent, planning my routine of abstinence with military precision — even, one year, starting a few days early to get into practice.

This year, however, Lent has hit me like a train, far too soon after Candlemas, giving the briefest respite of green vestments and Ordinary Time. It is difficult to catch up when you are supposed to be slowing down.

It is only now that it has started that I am beginning to understand what, for months, has been getting in the way of prayerfulness. For me, it is electronic media and the permanent twitchiness that it induces. I am constantly flitting about on the iPad, either reading The Times online, or (yes, this a confession) struggling with Level 127 of Candy Crush on my iPhone, on which stage I have been stuck for several months.

For those who are not veterans of the electronic game Candy Crush, Level 127 is not so nerve-racking that your teeth are set on edge, like those dreadful levels where you are terrorised by encroaching chocolate or about-to-explode bombs. Level 127 pretends to be easy, and is even appealing with its moving underbelt — so like the elegant dishes going round in a sushi bar — and its spinning plates, which fire off the much-to-be-desired small pieces of wrapped candy that help you to fulfil the task of collecting all the orders.

And, no, I don’t know what purgatorial online restaurant I am supposed to be waiting tables in, and anyway, the whole game is impossible: there are several websites devoted to giving hints on how to get through it, but none has worked for me so far.

The twitchiness induced by all this gets into the soul over time. It certainly has dug into mine. Concentration gets harder; thoughts speed up and fragment as fingers itch to tap out another attempt. I used to do meaningless doodles when I got bored in meetings. Now, I am aching to scan my emails, or check how many steps I still have to do to reach my daily goal.

I am not intending a total fast from electronic devices; just a bit of damage-limitation. I want only to be alone when alone, and present to others when present to others, and more present to God than I am to my mobile. There used to be real space in Lent, and that is what I want to rediscover, even if it is a little belated — and how to complete Level 127, of course.

 

The Revd Angela Tilby is Diocesan Canon of Christ Church, Oxford, and Continuing Ministerial Development Adviser for the diocese of Oxford.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear below your letter unless requested otherwise.

Forthcoming Events

 

Church Times/RSCM:

Festival of Faith and Music

26 - 28 April 2024

See the full programme on the festival website. 

Early bird tickets available

 

Intercultural Church for a Multicultural World

28 May 2024

A Church Times/Church House Publishing webinar

Tickets are FREE

 

Church Times/Modern Church:

A Political Faith?

Monday 3 June 2024

This panel will explore where Christians have come to in terms of political power and ask, where should we go next?

Online tickets available

 

Church Times/Modern Church:

Participating in Democracy

Monday 10 June 2024

This panel will explore the power of voting, and power beyond voting.

Online tickets available

 

Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards

 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

 

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)