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Lynbrook, East Rockaway houses of worship go virtual


Nearly three months have passed since many houses of worship in Lynbrook and East Rockaway switched to virtual services to abide by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ban on large gatherings. 

Over the past several weeks, the virtual technology teams at temples and churches in the communities have adopted Zoom, Facebook, YouTube and Google video platforms to hold services. 

“We have mostly used Zoom, and we have learned very quickly,” said Hazzan, Bonnie Zakarin, who helps run technology services and is the director of the religious school at Hewlett-East Rockaway Jewish Center. “I miss being in the sanctuary, and Zoom doesn’t allow for communal singing, but I’ve picked up on things very quickly. It has been a positive learning experience and a smooth transition.” 

For Bethany Congregational Church of East Rockaway, the switch to online platforms did not come as easily. At first, religious leaders tried Facebook Live, but a number of congregants struggled with it because it was unfamiliar, so church officials pre-recorded services and posted them on Facebook for viewing.

“Many of our congregants are elderly, and at first they didn’t know how to work live streaming and other technological devices,” said Pastor Mark Lukens, who attends to the church’s digital needs. “Pre-recording our services made it easier for people, and now if we mess up during services, it won’t be live. We can edit the videos and then post them.”

Lukens said he misses live services, but on the positive side, he said people could now attend church in their pajamas and adjust the volume.

Tech team members from other houses of worship said there is a higher number of people watching online services than those who attend in-person services.

“It’s been great to use Google Hangouts and Zoom to remain connected, and it’s amazing that we have all this technology sitting on the shelves that we haven’t used before,” said Steve Marzari, who runs the tech team at Lynbrook Baptist Church. “People are reassured that we are OK by having connection, even if it’s through a screen, in order to maintain our faith.” 

Brian Kraus, who is part of the tech team for the Church of the Nazarene in East Rockaway, where he has been a parishioner for 22 years, said, “I cannot understand how we are getting that many views because we typically serviced about 82 families before the switch to virtual. Now that we are only online, we’ve received up to 700 hits.”

Kraus is unsure precisely why more people are willing to attend services online than in person, but there may be many reasons.

“Some people are afraid of stepping into a church, and with online services, people who are busy can also watch services later,” he said. “I also think Christians are watching a lot of services from different churches for fun and to expose themselves to different messages and forms of worship. Also, many people who aren’t Christian might be curious and searching for hope that God will bring them out of this pandemic.”