10.30 Mass yesterday - live webcam
A Catholic parish has become the first in London to install web cameras, so that people who are housebound or even out of the country can follow Masses, Morning and Evening Prayers, Baptisms, Funerals and Marriages and other events as they happen.
Since the system was installed at Holy Apostles, Pimlico on 14 August - and before it was officially announced on Sunday - there were already more than 1,770 visits to the website - from parishioners, friends and relatives as far away as New Zealand and Australia.
"The response already has been just amazing" said parish pastoral co-ordinator Judy Masters. "This is going to be a real blessing for people unable to come to church."
When he told the congregation about the webcams after Mass on Sunday, parish priest Canon Pat Browne explained that the cameras were only focussed on the Sanctuary, and that all parents of altar servers had given written permission for them to be filmed.
Parishioner Jane A D'Angelo, who is wheelchair-bound, is brought to Sunday Masses but often can't come during the week. She told ICN: "As soon as I knew it existed I wanted to try it out. It is lovely to be able to sit in my own home and pray with the people at Holy Apostles. Very often I have wanted to be in the Church for the funeral of a parishioner who I have known for many years but I just cannot be physically there.
"Now I can watch the Mass and be there spiritually. I have watched Morning Prayer and been able take part in the Mother Teresa novena from home. It will help me to remain part of the Holy Apostles Community which is very important to me. I hope other churches will do this too."
The webcam system was designed and installed by MCN Electronics - Paul, Philip and their father Seamus McNicholl, who set up the company in Dungannon, Co Tyrone in Northern Ireland, 20 years ago. "Our business is very family-based" said Paul. "We were brought up praying the Rosary together every night and always like to work together as a family."
Their work is constantly developing, he explained. "20 years ago we were putting CB radios and public address systems in churches. Four years ago our parish priest asked about the possibility of broadcasting services."
Since then the company has installed webcams in 60 churches, mostly in Ireland, and there are many more in development. Initially they used mainly single fixed cameras. The latest cameras at Holy Apostles are movement-sensitive and focus on the altar, lectern and side chapel. Paul said they are now working on a system compatible with iphones and developing monitors which can be used by parishioners who don't have computers - as well as a number of other ideas. Watch this space!
To make a virtual visit to Holy Apostles go to: http://www.mcnmedia.tv/livecamdisplay.asp?CamID=89