With stay-at-home orders being lifted across much of the U.S. and Canada, churches are thinking about what it will look like to open their doors again. Yet because the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much with us, it is up to churches to consider how to do so safely.
While singing is considered vital in many congregations, at this time epidemiologists say that singing together poses an especially high risk for transmitting the virus. Deep breathing and projecting the voice in song creates smaller particles that travel farther than normal breathing and speaking. Even outdoors and with masks, physically gathering for congregational singing is currently unsafe.
As people of faith who love to sing, we in the church deeply feel this loss. Congregations are seeking to stay connected to God and one another by singing during online worship and by embracing other aspects of worship when gathering in person.
When feeling a sense of grief about the temporary loss of in-person singing, keep the following in mind:
- Remember that worshiping online is an act of love and care to keep one another and the most vulnerable in our communities safe.
- Celebrate that God is present and brings us together across distance.
- Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t do.
- Honor the feelings of sorrow that many are experiencing as a healthy part of adjusting to the realities of the time.
- Encourage singing at home within families and households.
When you worship on the screen, consider the following:
- Allow worshipers to see others’ faces on the digital platform during muted singing so they can see that they are singing together.
- Encourage participation in chat features during live services or watch parties. Sharing meaningful lines from songs, describing where and how people are participating in worship or a simple “Amen” can enhance the experience of being together while apart.
- Embrace lag, delayed responses and frozen screens as part of this worship experience.
- Provide worshipers with lyrics or notated music on the screen or in print.
We honor God when we worship in ways that protect the physical health and safety of ourselves and our community. We know God hears our praise, lament, and prayer when we sing from our homes or silently in our hearts.
This essay is provided by Menno Media, a ministry of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada.