Please, Silence Your Cell Phone

I have to admit that I was distracted last week. An electronic ding sound occurred periodically during class and even during worship. It was a familiar ding by the way. My phone and laptop make the same sound when a new email message arrives.

Of course, that was part of my distraction during class. I had the laptop plugged into the sound system so that we could view a video together. I was afraid that I was the source of the distraction. I even went up front during class to make certain that I had set notifications to “Do Not Disturb.”

I guess I had heard that ding too many times, so that by the sermon time when it happened, I stopped and mentioned it. I had more than one person confess afterwards that they thought it was their cell phone. One confessor even suggested that we mention each week to silence your cell phone.

Silencing electronic devices is not always easy. Years ago we had an alarm that was going off during the sermon time. It had happened at the same point in the service a number of weeks in a row. I finally stopped one Sunday and said, “I can fix that if you let me have it.”

Afterwards a retired gentleman sheepishly came forward and admitted that it was his watch. It was an electronic watch that had a lot of settings and somehow the alarm was set, and he didn’t know how to to turn off the alarm. (By the way, I immediately felt more patient with that beep-beep sound.) I was able to figure out the watch and turn off the alarm.

Last year, a similar case made national news. A New York Philharmonic performance was stopped when the marimba alarm sound continued to go off from a man’s new iPhone. The man was described as being between 60 and 70 years of age. His company had just replaced his phone the day before. He had no idea of how to turn off the alarm. When reporters eventually caught up with him, he admitted that he hadn’t been able to sleep for two days after the event, it shook him up so much.

Let’s remember that the noise of our electronic devices can be distracting to the people around us. If you are not certain on how to silence a device, ask around. I’m sure someone knows how. And if you see someone looking at their phone or tablet during church, remember they may be reading their Bible. Be patient with one another. (And if you’re not reading your Bible, remember the purpose of being in worship.)

I was at a church event on the other side of the state recently. They began with “Please, silence your cell phone.” These days the message is repeated before funerals, weddings, church services, movies, seminars, and many other public events: please, silence your cell phone.

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