I RECENTLY signed up to the ‘Facebook’ social network. Facebook enables people to communicate over the internet and to send messages and photos to one another.
It also allows users to form interest groups where discussions can take place between people all over the world. In the brief time I have been using Facebook, I have developed good friendships with people whom I know in ‘real life’ and also with some whom I have never met!
I have also been able to use Facebook to keep in touch with colleagues and to seek their advice and help when facing particular issues or challenges with an area of my work.
However, there are drawbacks in using these methods of communication.
For example, some people say that they replace face-to-face communication, and that they encourage us to respond quickly to others without thinking through what we want to say.
Also, some people suggest that Facebook encourages users to feel that the world revolves around them, because it is so easy to send a message or photo – even about the most trivial of subjects – at any time of the day, from anywhere in the world.
For me, using Facebook is a mostly positive experience, but, because it makes communication possible 24 hours a day, I sometimes wonder if we are losing our ability to find times of silence in our lives.
Many people find that they draw closest to God in times of silence. Before we begin to worship on Sunday morning at St Michael’s, we keep a short time of silence in which we can ‘settle’ and move our focus to the beginning of worship. This short time of quiet creates a space in which we can begin to hear God speaking to us.
When the prophet Elijah took refuge in the loneliness of the desert, he expected God to appear to him in a whirlwind, an earthquake and a fire. However, God was not in any of these things; Elijah heard God speaking in the silence which came afterwards.
In the same way, perhaps, we need occasionally to put aside the whirlwind of constant communication, and to seek God’s voice in the quiet places.
Revd Simon Marshall
Vicar of St Michael’s Church in the Solihull