When I arrived in Stoney Creek in 1985 to assume my new assignment as principal at John Knox Memorial Christian School (JKMCS), I was not at all surprised to see that I had a rotary phone in my office. Rotary phones were still commonplace, especially in a school that ran frugal budgets. I had one in Peterborough and in Stratford, so I did not expect anything different in my new school.
Like all new principals, I had to memorize my new school phone number: 643-2460. I had to get the phone number for Rhema Christian School out of my head and get 643-2460 in.
At some point in my tenure at JKMCS, we upgraded our phone system to create a way to use a new technology—the fax machine. We replaced the old phone and installed a new one. Gone was the rotary dial; in was the new touch-tone dial pad. The numbers were in three rows of three with the 0 below the 8. It took a while before I clued in that the numbers, 2-4-6-0 on a touch-tone phone, actually form a cross: 2 at the top centre, 4 and 6 at the ends of the second row with the 0 as the bottom of the cross in the fourth row. Each time someone with a touch-tone phone wanted to speak me at the school, he/she had to make the shape of a cross to do so. Many calls came in from community members as well as from others inquiring about the school. How fitting that everyone made the sign of a cross before contacting a Christian school.
Thinking about this, I had to smile. This cross in the phone was a God thing! He knew our number was going to be 643-2460. He knew that when the number was assigned, there was nothing unique about it for the first 25 years of the school’s existence. But then our technology changed. The fax machine came in and the touch-tone phone now revealed a beautiful thing that the Lord had quietly placed in the potentiality of our old phone number.
How many more potentialities for good has the Lord quietly inserted in our technological lives? To what extent do we see uses of technology that bless us and our communities as the Lord intended all along?
I struggled to transition from a pen and paper world to a keyboard world while serving at John Knox Memorial. I could not think while keyboarding and found the experience frustrating. But then I broke through the mental and physical barriers. I could think, compose and keyboard all at the same time! I also could design and structure my documents. I could save electronically. In later years, I could email and then Skype. I was more intensely engaged in community as communications technology opened new ways to talk, share and message.
My work patterns shifted and the work of my office assistant shifted even more dramatically. No longer did I place handwritten pages in her inbox; she was free to take on new administrative tasks.
I recall a story of Amish discernment around a difficult choice they needed to make. The government required that in order to accept the bulk milk from the farmer, all dairy farms would have to have milk coolers—no exceptions! Since the Amish lived off the grid, this decision would have a huge impact on their income and lifestyle. After debate and discernment, the Amish leaders encouraged their farmers to run electricity to the barns and install the coolers. When asked why they did so, they replied that their agricultural livelihood—the way they lived as families and together as community—would wither if they rejected the use of electric milk coolers. It was better to engage with this new technology on their terms than refuse to consider it at all and see their way of life fracture.
We need to be discerning of technology to ensure that we remain faithful humans in this engagement. But we should also remember that the Lord has placed so many potentialities, technological and others, in His world that we still need to discover. Many technological advancements are helpful in our homes and offices as well as in our schools and classrooms. The OACS itself employs advanced technology so we can be better in community, leadership and service.
I encourage you to consider where God’s blessings may lie in the use of technology. How can we continue to live better together?