Sunday, July 26, 2009

Communication and Communion problems

My 24 hour stay with my sister in London was a part success. I was able to do some shopping for her, buy her a mobile phone and program it with assorted essential numbers. She has the instruction booklet and can learn how to use it at leisure. I was unable to make any useful contact with TalkTalk's engineers however, as the area she lives suffers from poor reception and high traffic, and we needed to be able to sustain an unbroken line for twenty minutes in order to survive the computerised queuing system and get to talk to a real human being.

It took three tries with the line dropping on two occasions. When we did get through the line was so poor it was hard make sense of what was happening at the other end. The last time, after the engineer had rung us back successfully once to a bad connection, we asked for a re-dial, and weren't reconnected. I had another go at eight in the evening only to reach an answering machine saying that the fault finding service finished at 8.00pm, although Talk Talk's latest bill stated 10.00pm.

So June still has no land-line or internet connection. My mobile phone account was £7.50 lighter for the 0870 call I made. Needless to say I'll be writing a fullsome letter of complaint to TalkTalk CEO Charles Dunstone. Their service discriminates against elderly technophobes and does not warn people in its promotional material that ownership of a mobile phone is virtually obligatory if one is to be able to report faults and help their engineer diagnose the problem. It may also be against the law to effectively deny a person made vulnerable by a medical condition for having a reliable telephone service at home.

I got home at nine last night to read for the first time an emailed round robin from the Bishop dated Thursday and arriving after I'd left, recommending that churches take the same precautions as recommended by the Archbishop of Canterbury on Tuesday against spreading swine 'flu via church services. This entails abstinence from the Peace and no sharing the chalice, no self-intinction nor communion straight into the mouth. The priest may intinct everyone, having taken suitable hand hygiene precautions.

Hmm. I posted on this blog on 5th May, eleven weeks ago, about making this change to my liturgical routine in the light of injunctions about hand washing made days earlier by the head of the World Health Organisation, just after the seriousness of the 'flu outbreak was confirmed. No I'm not bragging, just wondering why it has taken both our Archbishops so long to say something about this matter.

The Bishop's round robin was informative about the history and precedents justifiying exceptional use of communion in one kind, pages of the stuff. It was however, too long and not simple enough for a sermon, even though a clear explanation for the suspension of custom and habit, and implementing the new routine is essential for people's sense of order and comfort. in prayer. I had to ditch doing a proper sermon on St James, a Parish patron saint (translated to Sunday), and struggle against tiredness to think through what to say and how to handle the practicalities of communion. Especially at the early service, with no assistant to hold the chalice to allow me to dip communion wafers for each person.

It would have been just a little more helpful to spell out to clergy that hand-washing before handling the bread and wine for communion not after, as enshrined in centuries of priestly training and liturgical tradition is essential for this precaution to be effective. Common sense needs conscious application. Liturgical ritual can numb one's sense of reality if care is not taken. I was not in a good mood and quite apprehensive about getting things right when Communion time came. Perhaps I was fussing, anxious about people's reactions. Although it was clear that not everyone was ready or could work out how to receive the dipped bread, we got through OK, and nobody missed out or dropped the Host, least of all me. I would have liked a few days longer to think about it and prepare. I don't mind change, but it does take longer to effect these days, just like getting out of bed in the mornings.

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