Reflection for the Month

From The Vicarage . .



I know that I have reached a certain age, as I find myself increasingly irritated by various aspects of the modern world. One pet hate is mobile phones. Why is it that you cannot conduct a conversation with anyone under 30 (or possibly under 40?) and have their undivided attention? Any conversation or eye contact is interrupted by a constant stream of texting. At a recent meal in the Indian restaurant, we noticed a young couple on the next table, who spent the evening, not gazing into each other’s eyes, (or even into their curries)  but looking down at their mobiles.

And why is it, when you have a problem relating to banking, or insurance, or a utility bill, you cannot pick up a phone and speak to a human being? You either get referred to a series of recorded messages, or given a website address, to do it online. And why is every household gadget so complicated, and designed with the express of annoying me? Without Sue and Nicholas, I am not sure I would be able to operate half the devices in our home.

To add to my grumpiness is the recent legislation on Data Protection which came into force in May. (The "General Data Protection Regulation") This was discussed at a recent meeting of the PCC. Of course, there are good reasons for protecting people whose personal details are stored by charities or businesses. There have been high profile examples of information being misused; and in some cases, people being hounded by unscrupulous charities. From May, charities will only be able to contact people with their written permission. So from May, we will not be able to write to parishioners, or e-mail them about parish events, unless they have given written consent. When we revise the electoral roll next year, we will be including a separate consent form asking for permission to keep in touch with you.

More problematic is keeping in touch with those who come to us for baptisms, weddings and funerals. Of course, for new bookings, we will be able to ask people to sign a consent form to give permission to keep in touch with them. (They of course, have taken the initiative in coming to us for these services). But we have been advised by the diocese that we cannot continue to send cards, on the anniversary of baptism, to children who have been christened over the past few years. We would have to write to them first, to ask permission to write to them! Crazy, or what? Similarly, if I write to families whose funerals I have taken since November (currently 25 funerals since the last memorial service) to invite them to this year's All Souls service, I will be breaking the law. Again, I would need to write to them first, to ask permission to write to them.

I do understand the reasons for the new Data Protection Legislation, and the PCC will be complying. There are draconian fines for charities that do not. But for the parish priest, and the parish church, it is just one more obstacle (and yet more paper) to make it more difficult to exercise a traditional pastoral ministry to those living in the parish, for when we have the "cure of souls". And it’s all rather sad.                                                                        Stephen


PS I have even considered sending a letter to the Daily Telegraph about it. I really must be a Grumpy Old Man!