The East Auburn Baptist Church records its Easter Sunday Service outdoors Saturday morning. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — Over the past four weeks of quarantine, East Auburn Baptist church has done a lot of adapting. Moving to online streaming of worship, the church has spent time, and resources recording the musicians and sermons that populate the line-up of the services.

Randy Corey, special events and creative arts director of the East Auburn Baptist Church, says that he is used to getting people together, so the last few weeks have been challenging. “I had never heard of Zoom” he said. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

According to Randy Corey, special events and creative arts director of the church, getting ready for Easter Sunday has presented another challenge. Wet, heavy snow.

“Low and behold, we have a snowstorm and lose power… everybody has had everything thrown at them, and we’ve tried to adapt as much as we can,” said Corey.

The church has been recording services for the past four weeks, editing audio and lighting. Corey said normally, technicians for the church work on the weekend, but since quarantine they’ve had to come in two to three times a week.

“It’s a painstaking process. We bring in technicians two to three times during the week to do sound for cameras, and it takes five people just to do that. We have to do it in pieces, remotely, and the music has to be offsite,” said Corey.

And getting ready for Easter Sunday has presented another logistical challenge. Normally, the program doesn’t have to be ready until 4 p.m. Saturday. But this year, the whole process was bumped up.

“Pretty much everyone has to get on board a lot quicker …  the preparation has to be done earlier. I think people are putting more time into it, because they know it’s going to be watched online. We’re trying to up our quality as much as we can,” said Corey.

Jodi Cohen Hayashida, minister at First Universalist Church of Auburn, has offered tutorials to her congregation on how to use video conferencing software. She encourages people to take the time to get familiar with it, as it a way to connect with other people. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The Rev. Jodi Cohen Hayashida, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Auburn, said the process of switching to online worship has presented a steep learning curve, and has also presented the human challenge while struggling to maintain connections in a time of social isolation.

“How do you take care of an entire congregation of people when you can’t go see them? How do you hold people in their times of grief and there’s so much grief when you can’t go see them and you can’t speak face to face?” asked Hayashida.

And those tough questions have led to some serious soul searching in congregations adapting to virtual worship.

“Having to essentially start from scratch and figure out, why are we worshiping together? What are we ultimately trying to accomplish? And how do we best accomplish it in this new format?”

Of course, online worship is fundamentally different that in-person worship. According to Hayashida, Worshiping in-person is more vulnerable and intimate. But, worshiping from home has led her and others in the clergy community to come together.

“All of us leading worship in in our various contexts have really been coming together and sharing best practices. So it has been a significant challenge, but also really an amazing opportunity to connect in unexpected ways,” said Hayashida.

Disinfectant is at the ready in the chapel of the East Auburn Baptist Church. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Likewise, East Auburn Baptist Church has experienced a silver lining. With implementation of online worship, they’ve seen their reach and viewership expand.

“(Viewership is) literally around the country. I think what has happened is people’s spiritual awareness and appetite has increased since the coronavirus has run rampant through the world. I think people are more ready to get in tune when it comes to spiritual matters. We have seen a huge increase of our online presence, because that’s all we have … our signal is being received in places we’ve never touched before,” said Corey.

And, according to Corey, inserting some normalcy into these unprecedented times is a huge relief for worshipers.

“A lot of times, you might see pastors speaking from their office, but on a weekly basis, we film the pastor behind the pulpit, on the stage. We have tried to replicate that, because out of everything that has changed in all our worlds, when we come to worship and we hear the pastor speak the word, it’s from the spot where we usually hear it from,” said Corey.

And though so many things about Easter Sunday worship will change this year, a few will remain the same.

At 5:15, a.m., the pre-taped Easter Sunday Sunrise service will air on Facebook and on the church’s website, with the sun illuminating East Auburn Baptist Church’s outdoor cross,  heavy, wet snow and all.

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