But then, along came the Coronavirus and our sales dropped dramatically in one fell swoop, since most of the monasteries had closed their guesthouses and monastic stores. The few orders that we were still getting came from stores that also had a webshop. We were very happy to have these orders, and slowly we began to wonder whether we ourselves shouldn't set up such a webshop? After much deliberation we decided to take the risk and try it for a year, so at the end of June 2020, our webshop went online https://shop.priorijklaarland.be/en/
We were already receiving highly positive responses within a few days after our first orders were shipped, not only regarding the quality of our artisanal jams, cookies/biscuits, candles, and puzzles, but also about the bonding people were experiencing with us by purchasing these products. In mid-October 2020, when we appeared on the TV program “Durf te Vragen” on channel VRT [Dare to Ask https://www.een.be/durf-te-vragen], I hesitated briefly before sending an announcement to all our webshop customers. It turned out that more than half of them had seen the program and they told us they had really enjoyed learning more about the context of our monastic life in which our products were made. Later when VRT broadcast our Sunday Mass, we heard from many customers that they had watched.
From all sides we were being advised: “Create a Facebook page; that will greatly increase awareness about your webshop and your products!” But Facebook.... we didn't have any experience with that and it looked like it would be one step too far. But nonetheless, we were eventually persuaded to try this too. In December we created a Facebook Business Page called “Klaarland Kloosterproducten” https://www.facebook.com/klaarlandkloosterproducten
and here too we experienced the “miracle” of digital bonding. Even though we do not emphasize it, it appears that people clearly feel that our products involve more than just the products themselves, that there is a story, a way of life and prayer, behind them.
Our steps along the digital highway will always be somewhat hesitant, trying to find a balance for ourselves on the thin line between “putting ourselves in the spotlight” and “living a hidden life.” We certainly do not want to end up too close to the first option, but so far our digital experience has let us discover that a digital bonding does exist, which is new for us, and for that we are happy and grateful.