Spokane YouTuber Shares Her Faith Through Video Series
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News Story by Nina Culver
Faith has always been an important part of Elaine Snider’s life, to the point where she took theology classes and considered becoming a chaplain. More recently that faith has been expressed through her YouTube channel, “The Whimsical Byzantine,” and video reenactments centered on the Nicene Creed.
Snider’s faith has taken different forms over the years, and she calls herself ecumenical. She raised two children as Lutherans. She joined SS Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Catholic Church in 2013, which is where she had her first date with Rod Snider, who would become her husband. But after her husband died in 2015 after only a year of marriage, she found herself gravitating even more toward the Byzantine Catholic faith because it helped her grief.
What the Byzantine Catholic Faith Offered Her
“The Byzantine offer a lot of ritual and the ritual can be comfortable,” she said.
It was then that she thought of becoming a chaplain and started making YouTube videos about her faith, which can be found here. For example, several of the videos explore some of the parables in the Gospel of Luke, including what it meant in context and what it means now.
“I wouldn’t call it a sermon,” she said. “It’s just my thoughts. While I was doing that, I spent a lot of time researching. I don’t have a degree in theology. I just read a lot.”
In order to show church history rather than just tell it, Snider had the idea to reenact key moments in religious history.
She read a book by Frank Slaughter called “Constantine: The Miracle of the Flaming Cross,” which featured characters from the Bible. That book, and its focus on Constantine, inspired Snider to create videos about the origins of the Nicene Creed. The first video she did featured herself in the role of Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, who remembers her time observing the Council of Nicaea.
Church History Through a Woman’s Perspective
Snider said she thought it was important to see history through the eyes of a woman.
“The things that we as women notice are not necessarily what men see and record,” she said.
The First Council of Nicaea, an ecumenical gathering of Christians called together by Constantine in the year A.D. 325, wrote the Nicene Creed, a statement of faith that is still said in a variety of denominations during Sunday worship services.
The creed was meant to unify Christianity at a time when many people worshipped in private homes, Snider said. Constantine had only made it legal to be a Christian in A.D. 313.
“He was a very pragmatic man,” she said.
Recruiting Actors for Her Stories
The Rev. Michael Hatcher of St. Gregorios Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church was one of the people Snider recruited to be in her second video on the origins of the Nicene Creed. Hatcher said he agreed because he thought the Nicene Creed is an important part of church history.
“That is the standard, the basis of faith or any church of apostolic origin,” he said. “Whenever we do the liturgy, the Nicene Creed is part of it.”
Hatcher said he’s never acted before and never been in a video like this. He was tapped to play the role of Constantine.
“That was kind of funny, just to be playing the role of King, the emperor,” he said. “It was kind of interesting because I’ve never done anything like this before.”
The church members Snider recruited from St. Gregorios and SS Cyril and Methodius all wore costumes created from what they could find.
“I won’t say everything was extremely historically accurate, but I think we did OK,” he said. “People will get the idea.”
The second video on the Nicene Creed is was published just a couple of days ago.
Being A YouTuber Is a Ministry
Snider said she sees her videos as a ministry, her attempt to spread the good news of the Bible.
“Particularly after this pandemic, there are so many lonely people, so many angry people,” she said. “I’m trying to say, here’s hope.”
She also wants people to truly explore their faith and attempt to live it in their everyday life, even if it’s by doing something simple like walking shelter dogs and showing love for other people.
“I’m challenging people to look at what can you do, what gifts do you have to offer,” she said. “If you call yourself a Christian, what are you doing to spread the word in your everyday life or do you only do it on Sundays between 9 and 10 a.m.?”
Snider said many people have become disenchanted with churches in recent years and hopes that her videos might cause people to reconsider.
“I could actually persuade people to revisit church as an organized religion because I believe it has a lot to offer,” she said. “You’re stronger with faith than without it.”
She also encourages people who have left organized religion to explore a variety of church options, not necessarily just the denomination they grew up in or used to be a member of.
“Your needs are different,” she said. “Your life has changed. Shop the church. Find where you feel called.”
Nina Culver is a freelance journalist and North Idaho native who has called Spokane home for the last 30 years. She started working at The Spokesman-Review in 1995 as a work study intern while still a journalism student at Gonzaga University and stuck around for the next 22 years, covering everything from religion to crime. She has an adult daughter and two grandsons who keep her hopping and if she has any free time she likes to read.