Satsangs in the Cloud: Memphis, TN
Faith and fellowship with Sai devotees transcend us to a higher place. The current pandemic has literally taken Sri Sathya Sai Centers to the Cloud—technologically through virtual tools that have unified members across cyber space, and spiritually by offering several inspiring Sai programs.
We have hosted the Sri Sathya Sai Center of Memphis in our home for the past three decades. We genuinely look forward to Sundays when the whole house vibrates with devotion from our Center members. When the coronavirus arrived in spring, making it unsafe to meet in person, we were disappointed. But as with all things, we just had to trust in our Lord Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Today, with creativity and commitment, our center is thriving while keeping everyone’s health safety a top priority.
Thanks to some tech-savvy devotees, we started meeting virtually every Thursday for study circle. There has been a surge in attendance, and in fact, some devotees who moved out of Memphis are now able to join us again!
Our Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) classes also transitioned to a virtual platform in Spring 2020. SSE teachers participated in a two-week teacher training course to bring new energy and ideas to their virtual classes. The SSE year ended with a wonderful online presentation by the children on Easwaramma Day. The older SSE children, ages 12 and older, attended special interactive sessions with the SSE alumni who shared how SSE and Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings helped them transition to college. The children were also inspired each week by the Sai Bhagavatam series organized by the National SSE coordinator.
Center members were able to attend the National Multi-region Online Retreat, in addition to the usual regional retreats. We enjoyed the weekly "Unite and Uplift" series presented by the national team and other Sai-related programs and lectures via Zoom and WhatsApp. Ironically, while the pandemic has physically confined us to our homes, it has also opened up opportunities to connect globally and be inspired by speakers from around the world!
Similarly, to our surprise, our center has seen an increase in service projects during the pandemic. With physical distancing requirements, we thought that service projects may not be viable. But again, to our surprise, our outreach to the community has flourished! Previously, we delivered sandwiches and other food items to the Ozanam Center, a local shelter. However due to COVID-19-related guidelines, the Ozanam Center could not accept home-made meals. So, instead, we had frozen pizza and canned food delivered to feed about 200 homeless people every day. We also donated clothes, food items and school supplies to the YWCA, and served lunch once a month at the YWCA domestic violence shelter.
Finally, we donated to a food pantry specifically organized for international students at the University of Memphis. Since the university was closed, many of the foreign students lost their assistantships, accommodation in the dorms, and could not return home to their countries because of travel restrictions. About 300 students who benefited from the food pantry expressed their appreciation for the help they received. Our center also donated face masks to Germantown first responders, the Church Health Center, Ozanam Center and Manna House.
This pandemic has been truly devastating for so many, and our center is humbled by the many opportunities to still be instruments of service, love, and positivity in our community. We, of course, will be so happy to come back together in person in the near future. But we are determined to apply lessons from this journey—staying connected, finding creative solutions, and never giving up—to further our spiritual growth.