You may have seen in the most recent weekly update that the staff are working diligently toward holding in-person worship indoors. In that announcement you would have seen that this service is being offered without sung music. In this article, I attempt to explain how we arrived at that decision and talk about what it might mean to us.
As of this writing, the available information points us to the reality that singing together in an enclosed space for an extended period of time is not safe at this time. Now, I will be the first, and perhaps the loudest, to express my deep sadness about not making music together as a church. I feel it deep in my bones that when we sing together we become the body of Christ and having that important act torn from our gatherings causes me great grief.
While I’m sure you have heard in the news about a recent so-called “super-spreader” events where particular circumstances have allowed for the COVID-19 virus to spread to a large number of people, you may not have realized that these “super-spreader” events have also been linked to singing. In March, a choir in Washington state met for rehearsal, followed good safety protocol and about half of the 60 choir members were infected. This is not an isolated case. As recently as September a choir in Madrid met to rehearse and 3/4 of the choir members were infected. Especially of note in this second instance is that proper safety protocols were followed with the single exception of closing windows to combat mosquitos and moths. Air was running, temperatures were taken, social distancing was maintained, and masks worn.
Why is this the case? Well, when we sing we are forcing air up through our respiratory tract in a more forceful way. On its way out, the air takes any dislodged particles along with it. These particles are aerosolized and these aerosolized particles carry the virus which we can then breathe in. In an enclosed space, without ventilation, these particles can build up to levels which can cause infection. If you’re really into reading scholarly articles or watching webinars about all of this, here are a few that your staff and worship committee have found to be helpful.
The worship committee, worship staff, and pastors have had numerous lengthy conversations surrounding worship, how we will gather, and what our gatherings will look like. Throughout these conversations, one thing has been at the forefront of our decision-making, namely that we make every effort to protect and serve the most vulnerable among us while retaining our sense of community.
So, in the grand tradition of Lutheranism, what does this mean? For now, it means that when we gather together indoors, we will show our love for our neighbor by refraining from singing together. Music during worship will be instrumental in nature, but to every extent that is possible, will still relate to the Gospel message for the day.
We also intend to continue to offer music ministry in various forms: live-streamed worship will continue to include singing. There are monthly zoom meetings of beverages and hymns. I will also be considering the next several months of holidays, their connections to music, and hopefully be determining ways we can engage with the hymns and songs we love to sing, but in safe ways.
While music in the church may look a little different for a while, the God of the covenant, the God of our salvation, remains the same steadfast God who chose us in our baptisms. Peace and blessings to all of you and stay well!