I mentioned the other day people getting in touch to see how we are. Last week a local preacher from my former circuit rang me. I talked about how I seemed to be as busy as ever with all the online stuff: worship, conference calls, filming myself, the church Facebook page, writing a daily blog. He said he was now blogging for his family coffee business and told me he’d written a blog showing that social media and tablets weren’t really that new. Here’s his blog:
“Ping! There goes my phone again. I have recently been equipped with an I Phone. My friends tell me this brings me closer to becoming part of the 21st century. (I quietly admit I have resisted this for some time). So now I am connected as never before to a world both near and far that rushes at me day and night, someone only has to sneeze and Ping! I have a briefing because I am connected to Social Media. Of course, in this time of self isolation, hearing from, and connecting with family, friends, and customers, is so precious, we can reach each other by means of this wonderful new concept, nothing like it before? But you know that isn’t quite true, the idea isn’t so new. My predecessors, the Coffee-men of the 1700’s, or as they were then titled, The Coffee Masters, the proprietors of the fast growing number of coffee houses, London alone, had over two thousand coffee houses by the end of the 17th century, in a much smaller area than we know today. They came up with the idea of social media. News made by their customers and broadcast for society in general.
They reasoned that they had coped with the austere period of The Commonwealth, somehow survived the plague and re-built after the great fire, they had taken on, and won against the efforts of the restored monarchy, who had attempted to close them all down. The coffee houses had always been worry for the establishment. Because they were where people met, discussed, and with their criticism tried to put the issues of the day, the government, and what they saw as the extravagancies of the monarch to rights. Yes, I know they were for men only at first, but nothing quite like them had been seen before, where all classes could meet on an equal footing, the humble clerk could choose a coffee house, and freely mix with the great and famous of the day. They became arguably the centre of news gathering. The proprietors of the Tatler and the Guardian Newspapers had published some of their most eye catching stories as a result of their entry to the coffee houses. The Coffee House Masters stated that is was through their efforts that the country could enjoy the freedom of the press and now they should be given the exclusive rights to news gathering and run their own newspaper, the Coffee-house Gazette. Each establishment being provided with a tablet and writing materials, these tablets to be available to the gentlemen of the house who would write their news, the substance of which would be rushed round to the local printer and the authors would have the gratification of seeing their articles published the next day. A bold and audacious plan which never took off because the public and the established newspapers of the day accused the Coffee Masters of over reaching themselves and poured scorn on the idea.
But when eventually we get back to something like normality and you sit in our Coffee Room, or indeed in any coffee house, with your lap top connected to the world in general, think of The Coffee Masters of the 17 Century who perhaps would smile at what we call a new concept, but would acknowledge that we to had survived through difficult unprecedented times.
Ping! There goes my phone again, but before I answer it I think I will have a coffee.”
So it would seem that the writer of Ecclesiastes is right, ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ (Ecclesiastes 1:9) and ‘for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven’ (Ecc. 3:1). If you continue reading chapter 3, there’s ‘a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing’ (how apt); ‘a time for war, and a time for peace’ (there’s a call for a global ceasefire in the face of the coronavirus); ‘a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance’. I was feeling a bit down the last couple of days (I guess we all have or will at some point during this lockdown), but I was reminded yesterday evening by Mary Fleeson’s “He Is not Here” that Jesus is our Light, our Companion and our Friend. As I reflected on those thoughts my spirits lifted. If you’re feeling down, I pray that your spirits will be lifted. Times to laugh and dance will come again.