Parishioners of St. Patrick’s Church, Dungiven unable to make it to mass can catch the service in the comfort of their own home by having the service streamed live over the internet.
A system of five high-definition webcams costing in the region of £5,000 have been installed so the sick, housebound or those living abroad can watch the service as it happens.
Weddings, funerals or baptisms can also be broadcast but only with permission from the families involved.
Parish priest Fr. Aidan Mullan said Dungiven now joins Armagh Cathedral and Cork Cathedral with what he called “the way of the future”.
“I was chatting to a girl last year who couldn’t make it home from Australia for a wedding and she said wouldn’t it be lovely to have been able to watch it on the internet. That lit the spark in me,” he said.
Feedback from parishioners has been mixed with concerns over privacy and child protection highlighted.
“Some people like it and some people don’t,” he said, stressing great care has been taken with how the cameras are positioned to protect people’s identity. He stressed it is hard to recognise people “unless you know exactly what they are wearing”.
“One man said to me that prayers to God are private - it shouldn’t be seen in public,” he explained. “Other people say the young ones won’t go to mass now, but that’s nonsense. I also had an email from a man in France who said he was homesick. He said he watched the service and ‘thank you’. That was lovely.”
Fr. Mullan said the whole aim of the webcam - which also provides a “CCTV kind of security for the church” - is to reach the future generations of housebound and sick, those who are computer literate now.
“It’s also for those who are away abroad and want to keep in touch with their community.
“I think it is the way of the future. You hear people say they watched mass on RTE, but how much better is it to watch mass in your own chapel from home?”