Church Matters

Shock! Horror! Ed Sheeran has decided to quit all social media!
Ah, that’s nice, I hear you say – or perhaps more accurately, who is Ed Sheeran and so what if he’s quit social media. Some of course will know who Ed Sheeran is – a very successful music/pop star who was born in West Yorkshire in 1991. His beginnings in the music industry were done the hard way – he actually used social media to independently promote his songs – but then in 2011 his first album, “+”, achieved multi-platinum sales (over 600,000 by UK “platinum”
measurements). Since then he has won many music industry awards and has gone on to launch his second album “X”.
It was in December at the end of his world tour to promote the second album that his announcement to quit social media until next autumn was made. The announcement probably sent shock-waves through his 16 million Twitter followers and 5.5 million Instagram subscribers – people who are used to hearing Ed’s thoughts and what he’s doing on a regular basis.

The reason for his quitting is quite telling. He’s quoted as saying, “I’m taking a break from my phone, emails and all social media for a while. I’ve had such an amazing ride over the last five years, but I find myself seeing the world through a screen and not my eyes, so I’m taking this opportunity of me not having to be anywhere or do anything to travel the world and see everything I missed”. Some profound truth in that statement, especially for our younger generations for whom attachment to a smartphone screen has become the norm.
Only over Christmas I was reminded of this fact within my own family – as we sat to watch a film on TV our youngsters (aged 23 and 21) were constantly looking at their phones and only occasionally glancing at the TV.
In the church year we are soon to enter the season of Lent. This traditionally has been the time to give something up (usually chocolate) as an act of discipline and self-denial (and possible weight loss). It’s seen as a time to hopefully come closer to God and mirror the self-denial that Jesus went through in approaching the cross. Historically, Lent was also a time when people wishing to join the Christian faith would come under close instruction to be prepared for their baptism at Easter. In themselves these can all be valid things to do (including the weight loss), but I wonder if Lent is also the time for individual reflection on
where our lives are going. Just as Ed Sheeran came to the realisation that things in his life weren’t all good, so we too might pause to reflect on where we are going. And this can be for people of all ages, of faith and none.
For the younger and middle-aged generations we live in a society that is incredibly busy with great demands on time and finances. Sometimes this can also spill over into the older generations too – the retired who suddenly find they have no time for themselves and wonder how they ever found the time to work or raise a family. Just like seeing the world through a screen, busy-ness can blind you to what is really going on – we can miss such a lot. For those who find themselves not so busy, the challenge might be one of loneliness or of wondering what comes next – where do we find meaning for our lives. Stepping off the treadmill of life for a while to pause and reflect is a useful thing to do, even if the treadmill has stopped.
The Bible offers several invitations to step outside of our current circumstances, one of the most direct coming from the Psalms – “Be still, and know that I am God”. It’s an invitation to get off the treadmill and simply pause before God, to know that he is in control over all our earthly circumstances. It’s an invitation of warmth and love, open to all.
If you should want to mark the start of Lent and all that the season may bring, there is an Ash Wednesday service at St. Paul’s, Upton Cross, at 7.00 p.m. on Wednesday 10th February. All are welcome – of faith and none.
May this Lent be a time of revelation for us all.
Rev Tony Stephens