YANDE SYAMPEYO, Lusaka
IT IS Sunday once again and if you are going to church, I have one question for you: Where should your electronic gadgets such as iPads and cell phones be?
When you are in church, should you carry your phone in your pocket, purse, or leave them home, or simply turn it off?
They say a church is a sacred place and activities conducted in the ‘holy gathering’ should be discreet as not to distract the service and other activities.
However, with the emergency of modern technology, there is a resultant trend by most worshippers to carry electronic gadgets like iPads and mobile phones to church.
The use of electronic gadgets has become so rampant coupled with lack of etiquette that some churches have resorted to pasting notices asking worshippers to switch off their phones.
Some churches on the other hand, are encouraging their members to embrace technology and make use of electronic devices for convenience in worship.
Some people claim the gadgets assist them to open and locate Bible books and verses faster than using a hard-copy Bible.
However, others speak against the use of the gadgets saying it is a source of distraction as most worshippers are fond of taking selfies, updating their social media posts, among others, as opposed to concentrating on the sermon.
Memory Zulu of Lusaka’s Bauleni sees nothing wrong with carrying gadgets to church as long as the bearer is mindful and or respectful of others around them during mass.
Ms Zulu, who congregates at the Catholic Church, says the use of electronic gadgets is not bad but that it depends on the motive.
“I have observed several adults checking Facebook, playing games, or surfing the Internet. But that is not to say they do not use their devices to read Bible scriptures.
“However, I must admit how people get a little distracted by the other options that the electronics offer,” Ms Zulu says.
Mike Mwansa, also of Bauleni says the use of gadgets in church is inevitable as most activities and transactions in the world are now electronic.
Mr Mwansa, who admits being a frequent user of gadgets in church, says 75 percent of Zambians now own mobile phones because the globe is now digital.
He says he uses his mobile device during worship service as he finds it easy way to look up scriptures and songs.
Mr Mwansa says mobile and internet technology can help spread messages of hope and inspiration, especially to those who are unable to make it to church.
But Mubanga Chileshe of Nyumba Yanga feels the western culture has infiltrated the current generation to the extent that they no longer have respect for tradition and norms.
Mr Chileshe laments that some worshippers, go to an extent of carrying chargers and power banks in church, a trend which she describes as unacceptable.
“Let us respect the time of worship. Honestly what is so wrong for people to leave their gadgets at home for a few hours? Let us respect the house of God.
“I personally do not entertain my mobile phone on Sunday until after I return from church,” Ms Chileshe says.
Sitali Moonga of Chilenje says the lack of phone etiquette has worsened the situation as some people resort to picking calls inside the church.
Mr Moonga is amused at the high level of addiction to electronic gadgets that some people cannot do without them, even in worship.
He says people should dedicate their time at church to listen to the word of God and avoid being distracted by the gadgets.
“Honestly, how do people fail to spare a few hours out of the seven days in a week to attentively listen to the word of God? he laments.
Priscilla Njovu of Garden township recalls how she almost picked up a quarrel with a church mate who was playing games on the phone during mass.
Mrs Njovu feels church should introduce laws that will compel worshippers to leave their electronic gadgets at home.
She says there is need to revive the old culture of carrying hard copy Bibles and hymns to church and share with those who might not have.
“Any distraction in church is unjustifiable. It is quite irritating that some people do not even put their gadgets on silent and when they ring with funny tones, I find it very offensive,” she says.
Pastor Patrick Osagie of Redeemed Christian Church of God says the use of electronic devices in church is not a problem but abuse of the gadgets by some worshippers is what is worrying.
Pastor Osagie says the use of gadgets in church to answer calls and respond to messages on social media platforms should be discouraged.
He says electronic gadgets can be used for religious purposes such taking note of Bible messages.
“It is advisable if you are using your gadgets for Bible verses and songs to put the electronics to switch off data and activate airplane mode so that you are not distracted by calls,” he says.
Pastor Walubita Siyanga of Grace Ministries says there is nothing wrong with people using electronic devices in church as social media can be used to spread the gospel.
Pastor Siyanga says social media is not a demon as perceived by some sections of society but that it can be used for a good purpose.
He says he has embraced technology as a tool to preach the ministry adding that it has made his sermons much easier.
“Technology always takes time for people to accept. People have a tendency to have apathy for new technology but eventually, people warm up and begin to use these things.
“For example, all my sermons, Bibles are on my tablet. I do all my studies there. Even when I’m going to preach somewhere, I just carry my tablet as everything I need is there,” he says.
Pastor Siyanga adds that he has a personal application which worshippers are able to download during church service for reference to the sermon notes.
The clergyman, however, says the use of electronic devices depends on the context and exposure of people being preached to.
“For example, if I was a pastor in a rural setup, it wouldn’t resonate well to use my tablet because people would wonder what is going on. There are some people that would want to see a physical Bible for them to see what you are doing, for them to feel you are serious with what you are doing.
“But in urban churches within Lusaka, you find that a lot of things have gone electronic. For example at our church, we do not have somebody standing to give announcements rather, we have video announcements that serve on time” he says.
Pastor Siyanga says immaturity or abuse of electronic devices in church happens when people do not understand the value of technology.
He recommends that churches sensitise their members on how they can use WhatsApp and Facebook, among other social media platforms for the purpose of enhancing the worship experience.
“WhatsApp is a good tool to use for church groups and Facebook is a good marketing tool. There is a way we can advance the word of God through social media,” he says.