Should church be a no phone zone?
Can phones in Sunday worship genuinely be an aid to worship? Or should we all leave them at the door?
A press release in my Inbox today proudly proclaims that Beefeater – the popular family restaurant chain (other restaurants are available) – are instituting a 'No Phone Zone' in their restaurants for Mother's Day this weekend (Sunday 6 March for those of you who suddenly need a florist).
Their take on is reads: "Top of the table on the list of family outing-ruiners was 'constantly checking phones at the table', which 54% listed as the single most likely occurrence to cause an argument. The second and third most likely argument starters were a family member being underdressed or scruffy for the occasion (28%) and family members having earphones constantly plugged in (18%).
"Conversely, 'family conversation' is rated as the single most beneficial aspect of a good day out, with nearly two-thirds of respondents suggesting that just having a nice chat is the best bit of a family outing."
Guests booking a 'No Phone Zone' table will have to hand their phones in when they arrive, and Beefeater say they will consider making the scheme permanent if the demand is there.
'Smart(phone) move' you may be thinking, 'Beefeater's PR team aren't daft, are they?' And yes, it's a neat idea to get some publicity, and I doubt I'm the only journo writing something about it today. But they've got a point, haven't they?
Sat on the train the other day I realised every single person in the area around me was glued to their phone, or had earphones jammed in. No-one was up for a slightly awkward British train conversation at all.
And I wonder whether it's an idea worth pursuing in church on a Sunday?
Yes, I know people sometimes make notes on their phones while listening to the message. Allegedly. And people certainly consult their Bibles on their phones (YouVersion is a godsend, or perhaps GodSend) - I do.
But would we engage more with God and with each other without the temptation to sneak a quick look at your messages, check that item on eBay or Google whether the preacher's being heretical or not?
We'd certainly avoid those irritating moments when someone's phone goes off and they hunt for five minutes to find it buried deep in a bag or a coat. We might even get our minds settled enough to hear God speaking to us.