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Pluscarden Abbey monks take services online in lockdown to connect with communities in Moray and overseas

Brother Michael de Klerk sets up one of the cameras for livestreaming.
Brother Michael de Klerk sets up one of the cameras for livestreaming.

Monks at Pluscarden Abbey have reached an international audience after broadcasting services online during lockdown.

Several cameras and microphones have been set up within the ancient 13th Century Moray monastery to take the Latin service to people worldwide.

Coronavirus restrictions forced places of worship across Scotland to close their doors in January.

However, the community of Benedictine monks has been able to continue their regimented life devoted to work and prayer behind closed doors – including their programme of up to nine daily services.

Online services from Pluscarden help worshippers living in isolation

Videos from the chapel showing the atmospheric singing and organ music have since been watched from as far as Australia and North America.

The community, which is based near Elgin, invested in the technology after receiving requests from regular visitors who have been unable to attend during the latest lockdown.

Brother Michael de Klerk explained the community has since received messages from people worshiping in isolation who have enjoyed sharing it with the monks.

Pluscarden Abbey.

He said: “We have gradually improved our technique and we now us several microphones and cameras so there are a variety of views.

“We scroll text so that people can understand what we’re singing, making life easier for those who don’t know Latin.

“Many people like to ‘attend’ Compline, the last service of the day. Whenever their day is over they find it exactly right.

“We are feeling our way as we go, trying to master the necessary technology, and gradually to improve the quality of production.

“Given our very limited resources, however, truly professional standards must remain firmly outside our reach.”

Pluscarden Abbey has established an online programme to broadcast three daily services on its website.

Since being launched in recent months the events, which are at 9am, 5.30pm and 7.55pm on weekdays, have been made available on demand to circumvent time zone difficulties.

A sign attached to the abbey doors during the initial coronavirus lockdown.

Churches across the country have also been forced to take their services online during the pandemic in order to maintain a connection with their community.

However, the Scottish Government expects to relax restrictions to allow congregations to attend once again later this month, providing case numbers of coronavirus continue to decrease.

A final decision, which is likely to include a capacity limit on 50 people with social distancing, is due to be made at the end of next week ahead of Passover, Easter, Ramadan and Vaisakhi.

NHS takes Covid vaccines to Pluscarden monks

Meanwhile, the Benedictine community has now been fully vaccinated against coronavirus.

Older monks received their jabs earlier in the year with younger members now receiving their vaccinations too.

Staff from the NHS visited the historic monastery to ensure nobody missed out on their injections.

Brother Cyprian Bampton, who is responsible for health matters at the abbey, said: “The NHS has been very helpful and efficient in organising injections.

“The older members of the community had already had theirs, and it seemed sensible to protect everyone in our bubble at once.”

Pluscarden Abbey has stood in its current location about seven miles west of Elgin for nearly 800 years.

The buildings were abandoned in the late 16th Century until the current Benedictine community was established in 1948.

Work to adapt the grounds for the modern day are continuing with one of the most recent additions being an expanded car park to cater for the increasing number of bus tours visiting the abbey to learn more about the monks’ way of life.

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