Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

20 September 2013

Greetings in the digital age

I've been interested to watch the progress of birthday greetings these last ten years.  Cards and phone calls gave way to text messages which gave way to the Facebook greeting.  Not exclusively.  I am talking in trends.  All different and all good in their way.

Last week I had cause to think about a different form of greeting and how the digital age has brought about change - how we communicate our sympathy when someone has died.  Brought to mind because last week a dear saint of long, faithful and loving ministry went Home to be with Lord.  We heard about his death via a beautiful message that his son left on Facebook.  What followed were more than 150 comments of condolence and remembrance.   And it was an absolute blessing to read through the comments - to see so many others blessed in the same way we had been by this dear man and his equally dear wife, to be reminded of some of the little but wonderful things (and thanks here to my friend who mentioned the twinkling are so right) and to realise the great reach of this man's pastoral ministry. 

There was one comment that caught my attention, and I was struck by the gentle irony of reading it on Facebook.  It was a comment about one of the hallmarks of this couple's ministry - the gift of short and specific handwritten letters.  Letters of thanks for hospitality, letters of sympathy, letters of specific encouragement, letters to say they had prayed for the letter recipient. Short letters that don't take long to write. Letters that take about as long to write as it takes to find the current TO DO list and put "Write a letter to..." on it.  They were in the practice of writing short notes and were equipped with a stack of A5 white paper, pens, envelopes and stamps on their desks so that they were ready to go. I think they must have written thousands of letters. I know we received several and we don't even live in the same state.  I remember them talking to us about letter writing at one stage and taking note, because, well, they were speaking to a letter writer and their words struck a chord.

Please don't hear me bagging Facebook.  Last week it was used for great good.  It was such a blessing to read through all those comments, to remember all those good things and to have so much for which to thank God.  In the past these sorts of comments would have been consigned to the private and personal card or letter of sympathy, seen only by the bereaved.   Now in this digital age we get to share in the blessing of one another's sympathies and remembrances.  It made me wonder if this is the new sympathy card of the digital age.

I too left my comment.  And then I got my A5 paper out and wrote two letters - one to his widow and one to his son and wife.  Because Facebook is good.  But there was more to say.  And there is always something special about holding a letter written out of love and gratitude in your hands.

Feel free to call me old fashioned.  I don't mind.  And I am guessing the one who wrote the comment about letter writing also penned a note.  Probably on white A5 paper.

(HT: Alastair at Paradoxically Speaking.  I had written and deleted this post twice in the last week but then, when I left an entire post as a comment to this post, I realised it was something that wanted to be written here too.)

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