Monday, June 11, 2012

Proud - and twittering

Another Synod gone, and only one photo on my camera of the proceedings (it is surely appropriate that I use one of Fr. Kelvin addressing Synod) - the rest were all of socialising and food. I had more to do this Synod than in previous years, which was interesting and rewarding, and we sang the Sanctus from Mr B's Kilbride Mass at the Eucharist, which people joined in with gusto and seemed to enjoy, but the main event was, I suppose, the one that attracted most attention - the vote on the Anglican Covenant.  We seem to have spent forever kicking it around without actually shooting for goal, so it was good to get the the point of voting on whether or not the Scottish Episcopal Church was going to take it further or reject it.

The debate was civilised and serious - no ranting, no raised voices, but thoughtful points well made. One speaker summed up the Covenant wonderfully when he likened it to a blancmange with shards of glass in it - work that one out. Someone at some point had referred to a French proverb: fier comme un Ecossais. and for me the real surge of pride in my church came at the moment when the votes against adoption were called for. There was a sudden rustle as a sea of voting slips - pink, yellow, purple - rose into the air; people held them high, like so many eager pupils wanting to be seen, rather than the more usual nonchalant pose. The Covenant was firmly rejected, and it felt good then to go on and affirm our desire to remain as part of the Anglican Communion. (You can read a much more knowledgeable account of the proceedings here, where you'll also learn of other good things that took us out of any tendency to navel-gaze;  I'll stick with my own take).

We've come a long way since the 2006 Synod where I moaned about being patronised for blogging, but some things haven't changed. This year it was Twitter. Again. Someone stood to make the point that he'd been brought up to listen attentively to speakers, and that it surely wasn't right that people should sit distracted by tweeting, passing comments online and so on. No, this person wasn't a nonagenarian; he was still just the right side of forty, making me one of the generation that, apparently, had made him thus. And I learned today that the aforesaid Kelvin was at an event where he had been invited to contribute to a discussion on social media - but where all phones and computers were to be turned off. So it's obviously still an issue in too many circles for me not to have another wee rant.

These people who want to stifle digital discussion are, it seems to me, living in what I have just heard deliciously described on the radio as an imagined analogue past - a past where, as the speaker said, everyone read their newspapers from cover to cover and was wonderfully and diversely informed. I'd say this imagined past was also one in which people hung on every word of every speaker at events like Synod, be they never so tedious, and never doodled on their Synod papers; where no-one passed a note to his neighbour or - more disruptively - whispered to her pal. My first reaction to hearing this complaint the other day was to tweet about it - for one of the wonderful things about social media is that we no longer have to seethe internally when confronted with patent nonsense. 

I would contend that if someone speaks interestingly, arrestingly, movingly, that person will be heard with as much attentiveness as anyone could wish for. If they say something memorable, it may well be tweeted and retweeted - a way of sharing a special moment. Most of us turn to less respectful use of social media when we are bored. Stick up a boring speaker and people will either drift off into sleep or check on their email or share a ribald thought online - and that's fine, you know, because as far as I'm concerned the biggest sin in a speaker is to be a bore. I've called in the past for a live back-channel; this year we had a time-delayed one showing what was being said on Twitter after the session had ended, so we're moving forward. 

We're moving forward all right. No-one presented a paper which they then proceeded to read aloud to Synod - they reminded us of what page it could be found on and assumed we'd had the sense to read it. We were moved, entertained, and - largely - involved. But God preserve the church - and me - from the people who want to keep us in the imagined analogue past. Apparently Plato said that using writing would mean that our memories would suffer. We seem to have got past that without going entirely to the dogs, yes? I shall take heart from the knowledge that the perpetrator of the patronising remarks that so irritated me in 2006 is now an amiable blogger. Here's to the next Synod... 


  1. From the Department of not seeing the Wood for the Trees: EITHER 'fier comme un Ecossais' OR 'fière comme une Ecossaise' surely? (Check with Mrs B junior, please)

  2. You are, of course, perfectly correct. My mind, alas, wandered in a moment of post-Synod lassitude. I have corrected the offending non-agreement (is it a disagreement, I wonder, in grammatical circles) but leave your erudite remark as a salutary reminder that one must never sleep ...

    1. And now I see I've omitted a question mark in the above. Don't bother to tell me ...

    2. I won't. Even bonus dormitat Homerus, after all.