Churches check mobile intrusion during services

Ringtones for incoming messages and calls are sometimes embarrassing

Madurai: Smartphone users in India have more than doubled in the past one year and churches are among those experiencing the flip side of the technological revolution.

Churches in a southern Indian city are cracking down on Smartphone use during service.

“When mobile phones came in first and smart phones later, it was tough time to control this intrusion,” says Father Jerone Simon, who celebrates Mass regularly at Ellis Nagar and Bastin Nagar churches in Madurai, the cultural capital of Tamil Nadu state.

The Claretian priest told recalled several occasions where he had to tell members getting calls to put their phones on the silent mode. “But things are working out slowly,” he added.

Currently, some 104 million Indians are using Smartphone compared to 51 million in 2013, according Deloitte in India.

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, commonly referred to as Deloitte, is one of the “Big Four” professional services firms. The US-based firm provides audit, tax, consulting, enterprise risk and financial advisory services with more than 200,000 professionals in over 150 countries.

The fourth edition of Deloitte’s predictions for the technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) in India in 2014 says smartphone users are expected to drive the highest video consumption on mobile. The report adds that consumers are increasingly becoming screen agnostic, and are viewing video content on their smartphones both inside and outside the home.

“We anticipate 50-60 percent of all the mobile data consumption in India to be driven by video over next 2-3 years,” says PN Sudarshan, senior director of Deloitte in India.

In view of increasing intrusion from mobile technology during services, churches in Madurai have started to crack down on the use of those devices on their premises.

They have issued advisories against texting and use of messaging app during services.

Priests such as Father Simon say they have been trying to decide whether they should address individual parishioners who have continued to use mobile technology devices while in church. Texting and the use of the WhatsApp mobile app have become problematic and intrusive during their services, they say.

Ringtones for incoming messages and calls are sometimes embarrassing for the mobile device owner, but they are certainly distracting and frustrating to the entire congregation, as they are occurring more regularly in the middle of prayer.

The majority of churchgoers do carry their Smartphone to church with them, but the clergy have been instructing people that the devices need to be silent and unused throughout a prayer service. The sound of a Smartphone or the sight of its use is considered to be quite intrusive.

The clergy is asking that the members of churches please follow what the majority have been doing and shut off their phones or switch them to silent mode. Should an emergency call come in – through a vibrating alert, not a ringtone – they want members to step out of the room in order to take it.

Signage and placards are being hung in some churches, such as St. Mary’s Cathedral, to prevent the use of mobile technology and remind parishioners to silence their devices when they enter. Unfortunately, until now, that has not managed to reach everybody, quite yet.

While pre-downloaded and side-loaded form of video will continue to be a major part of the overall video consumption on mobile, Deloitte envisages emergence of innovative business models in mobile video streaming/time-restricted download space in 2014.

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