Natives and Immigrants

No, not another letter about migrant workers, gang-masters or the latest antics of the BNP! Rather, this is about those who belong naturally in the world of computers and digital technology, and those who live in that world but feel like strangers in a foreign land.


This distinction was drawn by Dr. Muriel Robinson in her address to our Diocesan Clergy Conference in April.  She helped us to see how a gap has opened up between a generation of younger people born and nurtured in a culture characterised by multi-mode mobile ‘phones, personal computers and i-pods, and those needing to learn a new language in order to communicate effectively in this digitally dominated environment.


Time and space have contracted as a result of these new technologies, so that messages which took days to deliver are now conveyed in an instant via e-mail, and the reference library or bookshop which we used to visit are now accessible via Wikipedia and Amazon. It is not simply a matter of making a few minor adjustments to our daily routines and lifestyles.  It is about learning a new language and set of cultural conventions.  This is effectively to live as aliens in a foreign land – as immigrants rather than natives.


Another speaker presented us with possible scenarios as we look to the future of Information Technology.  On the one hand it might consume us to the point where we are ourselves more cyber than human.  On the other hand, we might regret the whole thing and rediscover the joys of one-to-one conversation, face-to-face meetings and hand-written letters. Meanwhile, there is a Gospel to proclaim and we were challenged to explore how we can communicate the good news of God in Christ to a generation whose native language we may neither speak nor understand.


On balance, we felt that we need neither to rush into a crash course in computer-speak nor simply shout louder at the natives in our own language in the hope that they will understand.  In the coming of Jesus Christ time and eternity, here and everywhere, now and always coincide so that all people, at all times and in all places, can be in touch with God and be touched by God’s saving grace.  We are in fact not strangers to these concepts of time and space which are now associated with modern technology.  This is not a foreign land but a land full of familiar landmarks because God is lord of time and space, and transcends even the greatest of our technological achievements.   Perhaps this is where we touch base with a brave new world where the old, old story is still good news for natives and immigrants alike.

                                                                                                                                    + John Lincoln