On Singing During Times of Social Distancing…
Baptist people are a singing people. We join our voices in praise of God, to share our prayers, and to proclaim salvation through Jesus. When we sing together, we are sharing God’s story with those who gather and actualizing the Body of Christ – one voice raised in song. Singing together expresses our love for God and our love for each other, creating community with song. It is hard to imagine worship without singing but here we are facing the prospect of worship without congregational song.
Why are we not singing during in-person worship? The research is clear and comes from many sources – the Centers for Disease Control, the Wisconsin Council of Churches, the American Choral Directors Association, the Calvin Institute for Worship, and many others. All have come to the same conclusion – singing expels aerosols which can carry Covid 19. These aerosols can linger in the air much longer than droplets and possibly infect a person. Multiply these aerosols by the number of people in worship and you can understand that singing might be a source of infection. Out of love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we must follow the solid advice of the scientific community and refrain from singing in our worship. That is going to be difficult and painful for us.
As Psalm 137 says, “How can we sing the songs of our Lord while in a foreign land?”. It seems like we are living in a foreign land with things we don’t understand and things that make us uncomfortable. We are like the Israelites – removed from our sacred places and sacred spaces. One of our most dearly held worship practices as Baptists and as musicians has come to a screeching halt! I know we all feel very disconnected and maybe even a little fearful. What are we to do in this time of change?
We need to hold tight to what Jesus has directed us to do – love your neighbor as yourself. We need to follow the science and lead our congregations through this time with love. Singing as a gathered community may be on hold for some time, but singing will not stop! Instead, it will move to our homes and be carried in our hearts as we navigate this new land. Our love for our brothers and sisters who gather to worship with us compels us to refrain from singing in order to protect each other. It is an act of love. It is the way of Christ.
Each church has to discern what path they will follow in these uncertain times. The logistics of in-person worship with social distancing, masks for all, and sanitizing requirements are almost overwhelming. Plans have to be made and people have to commit to carrying out those plans with diligence. Our responsibility as Christians is to love our neighbor. If that means not singing to prevent the spread of Covid-19, then our path in this matter is quite clear.
Remember, the song of salvation through Jesus will never be silenced. Its expression may change but it will never stop. We need to apply our gifts and talents to figuring out and designing other ways to include our beloved song in our worship. Our worship may need to change in significant ways for a time, but Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The call to love each other may require us to make a sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice made in love.
Links to explore:
Wisconsin Council of Churches
Orthodox Church in America