The Director of The Center for Congregational Song has been working for nearly a month on an ecumenical consultation led by United Methodist, Lutheran, and Episcopal liturgical scholars, medical experts, and in consultation with the CDC to create a document entitled “Resuming Care-filled Worship and Sacramental Life During A Pandemic.” The full 36-page document can be found here and is also embedded at the end of this post.
Some highlights from the document and our specific notes:
- Our parent organization, The Hymn Society, will soon be posting a more thorough document specifically on congregational song.
- Unlike the NATS/ACDA webinar, we are not including any specific timeline on when singing might or might not resume again. The science is changing too rapidly to do that with any certainty.
- While singing is not recommended at this time, there are many other ways to worship together and make music together. In times such as these, we are called as leaders of the church to think creatively about how to serve God and God’s people.
Page 19 of the full document is the section specifically on singing and music.
The text of that section is as follows:
SINGING AND MUSIC
Music is a gift from God given to all creation. It is a means of connecting with God and with one another, and of unifying our thoughts and understanding, our heartbeats and breath. Whether by singing, playing, moving, or listening, music is an integral part of the majority of
Christians’ worship life. Praising the Lord is a scriptural mandate (see Psalm 150) and singing is a primary way most Christians have “praised the Lord” together. However, we are now coming to grips with this disconcerting fact: The coronavirus is spread through moist breath. Several recent studies have found that forceful, sustained breathing, such as during singing and playing brass and wind instruments, appears to pose a greater danger of spreading the coronavirus than ordinary speaking at low volume. These findings lead us to recommend the following during the pandemic:
- Refrain from congregational and choral singing.
- Encourage the congregation to participate in music with body percussion such as clapping, tapping their thighs, and stomping.
- Refrain from using any musical instruments that require breath (wind instruments, brass instruments, anything into which one blows to produce sound).
- Use all other instruments (keyboard, percussion, string).
- Avoid sharing instruments, and take care to disinfect instruments before and after use.
- Limit the size of ensembles (4 or fewer) and maintain a 6-foot distance between performers with face coverings on.
- Employ silence effectively. Consider using American Sign Language to sing a hymn or song silently.
- Keep up to date with ongoing research on the use of music during the pandemic. Here is a curated (and constantly updated) list of resources and updates about congregational singing and COVID-19: https://thehymnsociety.org/covid-19/.