By The Rev’d Preb Julian Ould
I like to deal with people! As a nation and commonwealth, we are cranking up to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of our Queen. Interestingly, no matter whom I have spoken to and regardless of whether they approve of a monarchy or not, all have spoken of our Queen positively, claiming her to be truly remarkable. Why? Well, I believe because of her personal touch. Over the years she has taken the trouble to really relate to people in a caring way, share good times and bad, and as a result has touched hearts and been admired, for we all like the personal touch. In the early 1980’s we faced an electronic revolution. The wonder of the silicon chip was upon us and there was much speculation about how this was going to affect our lives.
One thing that immediately concerned everyone was that machines were going to replace people and that there would be widespread increases in unemployment. Sadly in some cases this has been proved to be right, but it is limited, for as yet no amount of technology has been able to replace the personal touch. And as I reflected on this personal touch, two thoughts came to mind. Firstly, online shopping and then secondly, someone who was a true craftsman who, when I asked “what makes a true craftsman?” told me, “You get a feel for things.”
During the last two years of pandemic and lockdowns the internet has become a godsend, enabling everything to be obtained just by going online! Add to this the wonder of contactless payments and you can achieve most things in splendid isolation. For the pandemic period this has been a lifeline for many, but for so many things it was a second best and, in some cases, it can never replace the personal touch. It is interesting to note that the moment we were able to eat out in restaurants and pub again, everywhere was instantly booked up. You were able to order meals from such establishments in lockdown, but actually going out to a restaurant was so much better, and to be honest, this is true for so many things and hence, once open again, our shops quickly filled up. To see a product and have that personal touch can never be replaced by technology.
Turning to the true craftsman who is able to get a feel for the things he makes or does: Machinery may be able to assist and produce accuracy, but that sense of ‘feel’ cannot be matched. And to explain what I mean by this is to relate the story of an engine that broke down within a factory that was crucial to the whole production line. The machine just stopped, and no matter what the on-site engineers did, nothing could make the thing go. So they called in an expert. He looked over the machine, then removed a large hammer from his tool box and hit one of the pipes leading from the machine. At once the machine burst into life. How did he know what to do? Well, he was an expert, but also claimed he had a feel for these things and just knew what to do!
The personal touch enables us really to engage with one another and is why God came to us as one of us. In recent weeks we have once again celebrated the wonder of the Easter story with Jesus living beyond the grave, His Ascension into heaven, and now look to the wonder of the Pentecost experience, with the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, and then the mystery of the Trinity. All of these were about drawing the disciples into a close encounter with God, and in turn they then drew others, building a Church that is still going strong. A Church that is dependent on the personal touch, of Christ dwelling in our lives by the way we live out His command to love as he loves us, and so reaching out to others.
Technology is wonderful and has advanced so many things in our lives, but the personal touch which enables us to experience joy and happiness – to interact with one another – to find fulfilment, to love, to live… can never be replaced.
We can give thanks for our Queen’s long and wonderful service, through her personal touch. We give thanks for the God given ability to experience this wonder, and we can share this glory of life by readily responding with ‘the personal touch’ ourselves.