By Olivia Hayward, Web Manager, April 2020
At 11:00 am every Sunday, my family whips up some waffles and eggs, settles in at the kitchen table, and flips open my dad’s laptop. It's prayer time in the age of the coronavirus. Like many other churches across the nation, Hillsong, a contemporary nondenominational Christian church, has moved gatherings online amid calls for social distancing. The shift to virtual religious gatherings comes at a time when multiple faiths have been preparing for key holidays — Easter, Ramadan, and Passover are all celebrated in April. While it is a far cry from the traditional services, the faithful are joining the streams and using them as a lifeline during what can be an otherwise be a desolate and confining time.
Image: Hillsong East Coast Online
On Sunday, April 12th, Hillsong East Coast pastor Karl Lentz welcomed the virtual parish from the other side of the screen. Following a half-hour of music sung and played by members of the Hillsong Worship team, Pastor Lentz delivered an Easter Sunday message to his live-stream congregation of around 18,000 viewers. Lentz shared a sermon he titled “A Bridge for the Broken,” during which he reminded us why we honor and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Lentz continued to preach, “The beauty of being a Christian right now in the middle of this pandemic is that there's bad stuff happening around us, but there are still good things happening in us.” Pastor Lentz has shared the same sentiment with each passing week: “We're gonna get through this.” As someone who contracted the coronavirus himself, Pastor Lentz explained how he has connected with God through this trying time and encouraged others, “Keep your head up. God is with you.” He said that during a time like this, we are reminded of the need to trust that there is still a miracle coming –– the miracle of renewal and atonement.
Danielle Frankel (Class III) weighed in on the subject of prayer during a pandemic and offered her perspective as an Orthodox Jew. While many synagogues have been holding virtual Shabbat (sabbath) services on Friday nights and Saturday mornings, this has not been the case for Frankel’s temple. She attends Chabad, which is an orthodox movement within Judaism, and abides by the rule that one cannot look at screens on Shabbat.
Frankel said, “My rabbi worked hard to ensure that Passover could be as close to normal during the COVID-19 pandemic. This included organizing ‘Seder to-go’ kits for families in the community, which contained some of the traditional foods of Passover.” Just as Easter is a holy Christian celebration, Passover is a sacred Jewish celebration that remembers how God redeemed his people from 10 plagues. Seder is a ritual dinner that marks the beginning of the holiday. Frankel explained, “In terms of continuing traditions within my extended family, we, along with many others, held a Zoom seder for the two Passover seders. Although it was not the same as it usually is with us all sitting around a table, it was definitely better than nothing.”
In fact, a question traditionally asked during Passover Seder begins with “Ma Nishtana” –– “Why is tonight different from all other nights?” Frankel reflected on how “the 2020 seders, without a doubt, gave a new meaning to that idea.” Communal places of worship may be closed, but digital reality is providing the faithful with a virtual window into holy ceremonies during revered holidays.
*Interested in learning more about Hillsong Church?
Check out their Youtube channel for online services, music videos, and more: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCB-MTmkMM638i1U3nkk09-Q
Check out the Hillsong Worship channel for more music videos (music can also be found on iTunes!): https://www.youtube.com/user/hillsonglive