Welcome to 2020, the year churches are pre-recording Easter
Easter Sunday was celebrated a few days ago in St Paul’s Cathedral, but something was not quite right.
There were no worshippers celebrating Christ’s resurrection in this beautiful, 129-year-old Flinders Street building. No festive flowers and no 40-voice choir.
Archbishop Philip Freier hosts Easter Sunday service, 10 days early, in an empty St Paul’s Cathedral. Credit:Jason South
But hang on, it wasn’t even Easter Sunday yet, which this year falls on April 12. What was going on?
It was Thursday, April 2 and, for the first time, the St Paul’s Easter Sunday service was being pre-recorded on video. It’s an insurance policy.
Cathedral dean Dr Andreas Loewe said that if a complete shutdown of city buildings is announced, which will mean no one is allowed in the Cathedral to conduct even a live streamed service on April 12, this pre-recorded one can be screened on the Anglican Cathedral’s Facebook page and on YouTube.
Only five people took part in Thursday’s recording: Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier, Dr Loewe, archdeacon Heather Patacca, an organist and a video operator.
Pre-recordings have also been made for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services.
As the coronavirus outbreak worsens, churches which have had to close their doors have sought new ways to offer spiritual guidance.
At Melbourne’s Catholic cathedral, St Patrick’s, Archbishop Peter Comensoli is preparing to host Easter services without a physical congregation.
Annie Carrett, director of the Office of the Archbishop, believes this is ‘‘unprecedented’’, that even during the 1919 flu pandemic and world wars people went to St Pat’s to pray.
However, all Holy Week masses will be be live streamed on the Catholic Archidiocese of Melbourne website, cam.org.au, on Facebook and on YouTube.
Key services will also screen on TV station Channel 31.
Rudy Nikkerud, a pastor at Pentecostal Christian church Planetshakers, said on past Easter Sundays up to 5000 people would attend its South Melbourne auditorium over several services, with a live band and inspirational speakers.
Planetshakers is big on participation where members liked to shake hands and hug others. ‘‘That’s obviously not possible right now,’’ Pastor Nikkerud said, but Planetshakers is experienced at streaming its services online, on YouTube and Facebook.
Now, no one can attend live, so the church has pre-recorded an Easter Sunday service including a sermon, church news and music that viewers can watch online at the time they would normally go to church.
If allowed under restrictions, a live host will introduce segments.
Jorge Menidis, director of the Greek Centre for Contemporary Culture, said the coronavirus outbreak was ‘‘devastating’’ for Greek-Australians, for whom Easter is the most important time of year.
Normally, thousands flock to churches such as the Sts Anargiri in Oakleigh for midnight services before Orthodox Easter Sunday, which this year is on April 19.
For Sunday lunch, they gather with loved ones to eat lamb on the spit and tsoureki bread.
Not this year. Mr Menidis said people understand why, but are sad at missing rituals.
Father Chris, the priest at St Eustathios church in South Melbourne, said at least a third of Victoria’s Greek Orthodox churches would screen services online.
‘‘Our church is doing live streaming on Facebook,’’ he said. ‘‘Some churches are putting it on YouTube as well.’’
Father Chris said people’s ‘‘whole world has been turned upside down’’ but it was temporary.
Elderly worshippers, in particular, were resilient. ‘‘People have survived World War II, even the civil war in Greece, deprivation, starvation. This is nothing compared to that.’’
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