Dear Friends

In an article in The Times recently (10th August edition), entitled beware the march towards a Zoom dystopia', the journalist Clare Foges begins with an amusing lead-in, too long to quote here, but which describes the typical staccatos start of a zoom chat'. What has been, during lockdown, a sensible alternative to commuting to the office, which carries all the attendant risks of Covid infection, is now, in her view. risking another social danger - the making permanent of remote meetings, consultations watts medical practitioners and even judicial trials, which could be conduced without judges or juries being able to assess (lives the body language of suspects. lt is possible that, with regard to the latter zoom teals' may become accepted praline, just as online lending within universities, even once the worst of the pandemic has passed, may replace face-to-face lectures and tutorials. Of course, there are advantages with these arrangements - working from home may mean that businesses no longer have to invest in costly bricks and mortar, since the kitchen table will replace the office desk.

However, there are disadvantages, too, and Clare Foges in her article points out that 'enthusiasts for technology miss the vital human need for face-to-face contact, which has a pratical and social purpose'. Where such contact is lacking, there is evidence of an increase in loneliness and depression - students on their laptops in university hostels, for example, especially those of a quieter, more introspective type. and experiencing their first time away from home, can come a prey to mental health issues which, sadly, are already prevalent among that age group. All too easily, this situation can turn into a suicide scenario.

The article closes with a quotation from E M Forster's The Machine Stops (published 1909) in which, with remarkable prescience, Forster imagines a future in which people are condemned to living in individual cells underground, isolated from each other and communicating only through blue screens. One man yearns for authentic contact with his mother: 'I want to see you not through the Machine . . . I want to speak to you not through the wearisome Machine'. One has sympathy with the final plea of this thoughtful piece, 'please let techdistancing be for the pandemic, not for life', although we may have to accept that some aspect of our lives may be changed for ever.

'What has all this to do with church?', you may ask. Here at St Mary's, while we continue to adhere to current guidelines concerning social distancing and take all necessary precautions? We recognise the importance of meeting together regularly as the body of Christ. Even though we are not permitted to sing at present, we can still worship together and receive Communion - a sign instrument and foretaste, surely. of the fact that we are not 'distanced' either technically or spiritually, but are members of each other, with Christ as our head. Do join us if you can for our 10:00 am services.