Sunday 24 January 2010

Consecrated Laptops

Will Pavia of London's The Times reports on efforts by the English Church to incorporate the blessing of modern technology, including ubiquitous Apple products such as the smart phone, into its centuries-old liturgy. The Church's willingness to adapt is evident, as Pavia reports, since "none had been brave enough to adapt its ceremonies to address the modern mysteries of 3G network coverage, iPhone apps and variable battery life" before the new liturgy was held January 11th at St. Lawrence Jewry in the City of London Corporation. Part of St. Lawrence's success in this endeavor is due to Canon Parrott, who exhibits a charisma and dynamism absent in many of England's quickly-emptying churches. "In his former parish", Pavia reports, "he once dressed up as a Christmas tree to promote the message of Christmas".

At first, this novel practice may appear to many as bizarre, newfangled, and even irreverent, as though the timeless character of the liturgy has been diluted. But this rite may not seem so bizarre as one might first think. In the Middle Ages, Pavia notes, laborers would commemorate Plow Monday by bringing their plows to the church door and leaving them there to be blessed by the clergy. Thus, ecclesiastical adaptation to modern-day needs and interests is not a new phenomenon; the Church (at that time the Universal Church, since the English Church had not yet been established) has long been appealing to its laity with innovations which would have been highly personal for, and contemporary with, them.

Why do congregation members bring their plows and laptops to church to be blessed? The ritual may have deeper and more anthropologically significant roots than we imagine...

Image and Source: The Times