Rev. John Collard (our Interim Minister)

Dear Friends,

As the summer holiday season approaches, many of us will be grappling with the recent photography technique of the selfie.

I became aware of the selfie phenomenon a couple of years ago when we visited Rome and discovered that there were numerous street sellers hawking extendable sticks that looked like the kind of thing that lecturers used for pointing to the blackboard! I soon discovered that they were selfie-sticks. Essential equipment, when combined with your mobile phone, for taking your own picture in front of famous landmarks.

I’ve never owned a selfie-stick, but I have tried my hand at taking selfies none the less. My family pull my leg about how badly they often turn out - as I squint at the camera without really knowing what’s in it’s field of view. More often than not the answer is a portion of my arm, with a slightly worried expression on my face!

It’s interesting to reflect whether the rise of the selfie reflects something deeper. Photos used to be of other people, although most of us would perhaps admit to finding pictures with us in them, the most interesting! Certainly our culture is more and more concerned with image and appearance. The peer pressure on young people to conform to the acceptable norms of appearance, dress and behaviour are stronger than ever. There is a strong current in our culture that stresses the importance of ‘I’ and ‘me’, sometimes ignoring ‘you’ in the process.

Yet one of the keys to happiness is surely in focussing on others and the world outside us, rather than being preoccupied with ‘me’.

In Christian terms this is given greater emphasis by the gospel teaching that those who try and put themselves at the front of the queue will end up at the back. Jesus constantly points to those who are disregarded and ignored as somehow embodying the values of the Kingdom of God: children, women, those suffering from contagious disease. In John chapter 13, Jesus recommends that his disciples follow his example by washing one another’s feet.

Humility and the desire to serve others are not only the motivations of the Kingdom of God, they may just be the way in which we teach yourselves that we are really not so important or interesting as we think. And paradoxically that may just be what sets us on the path to a happier and less self-obsessed society.

Towards the end of his life the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung observed that those of his patients who had enjoyed the happiest lives had been the ones who looked outward not inward, and who took an interest in the world outside their heads, in nature, art and science.

So maybe I’ll give up on the selfies and stick to taking pictures of others. Just hoping I’ll be in some of theirs!

John Collard

Interim Minister