June 25 2018
When I lived in Britain, I would regularly go to on retreat to Ampleforth, a Benedictine monastery just north of York. When a parish priest in and around Durham, I would sometimes also drive the hour or so journey south just for Compline, night prayer, with the monks—a sublime experience.
When in York in June, I decided to travel up to Ampleforth for Compline (and a meal in the good pub just along the lane), intrigued by a note on the abbey website that due to the refurbishment of the monks’ dorms, they were temporarily staying elsewhere but that services would be live-streamed to the abbey church. This sounded interesting, given I had been to “live” compline many times, and often listen to recordings of the service. A live-stream seemed like an experience in the middle of these my familiar ways of joining in.
So I sat in the abbey church and waited. The bell rang for quarter past eight—the time of prayer—and no one else had arrived. It soon became clear that neither was there to be any live-stream.
It was good to sit in silence in that that vast, austere, space as darkness fell, even without the warmth of the monks’ voices singing their prayer. Here are some photos, and a recording of the service...
Images: around the abbey church, the choir space from which compline is sung, and the ecumenical “Ampleforth Covenant” of church leaders —including Alan Smithson, of blessed memory— across the north of England which was signed at the abbey. Photos: Stephen Burns.