A year before the COVID-19 pandemic, during the winter of 2019, the Sathya Sai Center of Seattle Eastside faced a blizzard in which they had a record amount of snow, the most in 70 years.

Ahead of the storm, the new team of Center officers prayed for the Lord’s guidance on how they could continue their weekly Center program despite the upcoming “Snow-Armageddon”. They decided to host a virtual Center meeting via Zoom, with 60 minutes of study circle followed by pre-recorded devotional songs. On the day of the Center meeting, the snow had indeed piled up as predicted, but the virtual program went off without a hitch.

After that experience, the Devotion Coordinator decided to record each week’s devotional program so that those unable to attend could still listen to it. Sharing the recording became a part of the Center offerings.

In early 2020, the first COVID-19 case surfaced in Seattle and by late February it became evident the disease was spreading rapidly. The SSIO and state government officials shared helpful information about disease prevention, and the Center officers met again to strategize how to safely manage the center activities.

Applying the lessons learned the previous year, the Center officers set up virtual Center meetings following the same format- an hour of study circle followed by an hour of devotional singing. Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) teachers offered to host virtual SSE classes for the older students, aged 12 and older. The younger students received their SSE lessons via email.

Since they had recorded a year’s worth of the devotional programs, the Devotion Coordinator has a library of devotional songs to draw from. Every week, he puts together an hour-long audio recording of various devotional songs accompanied by slides with lyrics of the songs so that members can follow along. Attendance for these virtual sessions has been the same as that for the regular Center meetings. The Center has also been able to observe special occasions such as Buddha Poornima and Easter by inviting inspiring speakers.

In the light of the current lockdown and fears and uncertainties over the COVID-19 pandemic, the virtual devotional sessions have provided solace to Center members during this difficult time. Center members have expressed their gratitude and applaud the efforts of the Center officers for bringing the uplifting virtual programs every week into their homes, allowing them to soak in 'Sai Love'. Families have shared that they are sitting together for the Center meetings and elderly members have appreciated the ease of joining. In addition, people who have moved out of the area have taken advantage of the virtual means to join in the Center meetings.

It is purely Divine Grace that the 2019 snowstorm provided the Sai Center the opportunity to experience holding a virtual Center meeting which then prepared the Center for virtual devotional meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Center officers pray that the loving Lord continues to guide them, the Center and the larger community.