Most Easter mornings, Fran Seeley rises before dawn for a sunrise service overlooking the ocean, a spiritual moment she shares with fellow members of her church.

“There’s something very magical about seeing a sunrise and being in community with other people at the same time,” she said.

That kind of gathering won’t be possible this Easter Sunday, with church buildings and oceanfront parks closed as people physically distance themselves to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Instead, Seeley will sit on her deck in Portland, face the rising sun and log on to Zoom, where she will join Rev. Alyssa Lodewick and others from Woodfords Congregational Church in Portland for an intimate service during which they will use their own bread and wine for communion. Seeley, 78, hopes the service will capture some of that magic and community she looks forward to each year.

“It’s something I’ll have to cultivate,” she said. “The surroundings will be different, but hopefully I can bring up memories of past sunrise services and transpose that in my mind with sitting on my deck and overlooking my yard.”

As Christians across Maine prepare to mark the resurrection of Jesus Christ, they will do so in ways they may never have imagined before. Instead of gathering for prayers and hymns, they will log on to Zoom, YouTube and Facebook for virtual services. Some churches will share pre-recorded services, while others will have interactive live services.

“It’s breathtaking how many different ways congregations all over the state have found to connect,” said Rev. Jane Field, executive director of the Maine Council of Churches. “It wasn’t a learning curve, it was a learning mountain. But these churches have climbed it and they are staying connected.”

Church bells across the state will ring at 3 p.m. on Good Friday and again at noon on Easter as members join in moments silence and prayer to honor front line healthcare workers and to celebrate Christ’s victory over death.

Many Catholic parishes across the state also are live-streaming Masses because of the coronavirus crisis. Bishop Robert Deeley will preside over Holy Week Masses and services from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland. Those celebrations will be shown on the Portland Diocese website and cathedral Facebook page.

“It is true that we greatly feel the loss of being able to receive Communion and gather together in churches and chapels. In this case, however, it can be seen as an act of love we show to one another,” Deeley said in a statement. “By remaining apart, we slow the spread of this horrible disease. As such, our sacrifice becomes an opportunity to show one another in our own lives what the Eucharist makes known to us: God loves us. Our action becomes a manifestation of that love, for all love is of God.”

To further connect Maine Catholics on Holy Saturday, the church is inviting people to join in an act of solidarity at 7:30 p.m. by standing in front of their homes with a lit candle, flashlight or other light. Parishioners are asked to offer a silent prayer and reflection for those who have died from COVID-19, for the consolation of families and for the healing of the world, according to the diocese.

Bishop Thomas Brown of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine said each of the 60 year-round congregations in Maine are planning to come together in some way this week for sacred days. Some congregations will share sermons Brown has preached for Good Friday and Easter Sunday, while at others the local priest will preach a sermon on Zoom or Facebook Live.

“God always brings us from death to life. That central message of the Easter promise gets proclaimed whether we are in physical buildings or in our living rooms looking at a computer screen seeing the faces of others and the face of the pastor,” Brown said. “Right now, what we understand to be God’s mission for us is to do everything we can to slow the spread of the virus.”

Field, pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Windham, said she will lead an Easter service on Zoom for the 54 members of her church. The church members tell her they love being able to see and speak to each other during their Zoom services.

“It’s not a recording, it’s real church,” she said. “They love being together even if it can’t be in person.”

Lodewick, the pastor of Woodfords Congregational Church in Portland, said there will be multiple ways for her congregation to worship together on Easter. After the sunrise Zoom service, the church will share on YouTube and Facebook a 9 a.m. family service and a 10 a.m. celebratory service with music and scripture. Lodewick said she knows people are missing being together, but hopes they will feel connected on Easter.

“We know community was important to Jesus,” Lodewick said. “It’s very important to gather to celebrate that and to replicate that community together with family and friends.”

For Robin Carter, a lead lay person at Woodfords, the connections at the church – both among members and the broader community – is always important, but especially at Easter. She has already logged onto a Zoom service to connect with others, but wanted to do more on Easter. She asked 14 families to make 22 colorful signs with messages of hope and peace. On Saturday, Carter will place those signs on the lawn of the empty church for the community to see.

“It gave me so much joy,” she said.

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