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June 3, 2021

Students Organize Worship Meetings, Easter Celebration

By Kelly Parks, Staff Writer

As COVID-19 regulations slowly lifted for churches and campus events this spring, a group of students with Christian Union’s ministry at Cornell hosted an in-person Easter sunrise service at the John R. Mott Center with a limited number of attendees.

Cu Vita Easter

Seth Bollinger ’22, one of the organizers, said the CU Vita community was craving this kind of worship service.

“COVID has made large gatherings challenging this year,” he said. “We were hosting smaller [worship events] for several weeks, but I was starting to feel that having one on Easter morning needed to happen. I remembered streaming my church’s Easter service last year in quarantine. I couldn’t imagine everybody having to do that again, so I worked on figuring out how to do an in-person sunrise service for the CU Vita community.”

Olivia Simoni ’21, an English literature major, also played a pivotal role in the Easter worship service.  When asked what inspired her to organize the event, she replied: “I love the freedom to worship God together as believers. Having spent the bulk of my growing up years living in the Middle East, where I had to hide my faith for fear of governmental retribution, the freedom to openly express our love for our Savior as brothers and sisters in Christ is a gift! This year, especially with COVID and social distancing, my friend Seth and I felt especially encouraged to gather people together and remind them of the joy of community and the ultimate joy of our salvation.”

For Simoni, one of the highlights from the Easter service was “simply getting to close my eyes and hear an ocean of voices and harmonies, and feel unified as one body.”

Simoni’s younger brother, Nathan Simoni ’23, called the Easter sunrise worship service “incredible.”

“My two favorite parts were eating together while being in community and serving through playing the Cajon for the service,” he said. “I loved the set list that we did—all of the songs we chose were focused on the resurrection and the joy we partake in because of it.”

Bollinger, an applied economics and management major with a concentration in marketing, said celebrating Easter, in light of the pandemic and the pain, suffering, and unrest in the country, was a timely event for believers.

“Understanding the importance of Easter needs to come from understanding the importance of the season of Lent that precedes it…Lent is a time where we reflect on the sin that is in the world and us,” he said. “But at the end of it, we find hope in another season - the season of Easter, where we celebrate that sin and death do not have the victory! Easter is so significant, especially in our situation today, because we can have hope in our risen Savior!”

Olivia Simoni echoed Bollinger, stating: “Without Easter, nothing would matter. Without a God who exists, loves us, redeems us, and defeats death for us, life is not worth living. Without Christ, what are you living for? The weekend? Your academic success? Relational satisfaction? All of these things bring momentary happiness, but not joy. Enjoyment, but not wholeness. They are a vapor. Easter is the great gift of hope - of something to live for because there is more, far more, beyond this life.”

With this hope in mind, Olivia Simoni has a new perspective of how the pandemic has impacted worship and community.  

“This year, worship has been refined to its original form: God’s people, gathered together in unity and locking eyes with their Maker,” she said. “We sit around in circles on rugs. We weep and laugh and silently wait on the Lord as we sing. There is no structured event or well-formulated plan. There is just raw devotion and rejoicing. COVID, in my eyes, has brought us all back to real worship.”

Nanthan Simoni echoes this sentiment, as the pandemic has allowed him to spend more time in the Word.

“COVID has actually benefited my spiritual life greatly,” he said. “Since last March, I’ve gotten into the habit of reading my Bible daily with the extra time on my hands. COVID has also allowed me to take more time to reflect on the type of man I want to be and how I can better reflect Christ in my actions, thoughts, and relationships.”

While COVID certainly has made life challenging for many, CU Vita students have grown spiritually by pressing deeper into Christian community and by hosting a traditional Easter service and also by seeking non-traditional ways to worship the Lord.

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