Psalm 96 begins with “O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.” In Matthew 26:30 (and in an identical verse in Mark 14:26) we learn that Christ sang with his disciples. So why are we not allowed to sing in church?
As we talk, sing, cough, sneeze, or even just breath, germs within our lungs and respiratory passages can become aerosolized and expelled with our breath. This is probably one of the easiest ways for the COVID virus to be transmitted. Because when we sing we tend to breath deeper and expel air with greater force, singing can transmit germs and viruses greater distances. So out of concern for the safety of congregants, Bishop Michael Hanley has requested that we not sing in our services.
In selecting music for our liturgies I have kept the Bishop’s wishes in mind. We are not singing those parts of the liturgy that we used to regularly sing such as the “Glory to God,” the Psalm, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” and the Fraction Anthem. Instead we are speaking those parts of the liturgy. That way everybody in the congregation can fully participate in those elements of the liturgy.
Hymns, however, do not really have a spoken equivalent. If we have a liturgy without singing, hymns are usually omitted. Recognizing that hymns are an important part of our liturgy for many congregants, I have chosen to include hymns in some way in each of our Sunday liturgies.
For our recorded YouTube liturgies a small group of volunteers from the choir sing the hymns as the service is recorded, maintaining social distancing and wearing masks. At our 8 am Sunday morning Eucharist I play a short piece of music based on appropriate hymns with the hope that hearing the hymn melody within these pieces will remind you of the message the hymn brings to us. At the 10:30 Eucharist we have been using a Cantor to sing the hymns. To maintain the thirty feet of distance the Bishop has asked singers to maintain, our Cantor’s have been singing in the hall located just behind the organ console. A microphone allows us to hear the Cantor through the sound system. If you are worshiping at the church, we ask that you do not join in the singing with your voice, but hope you can sing along in your heart. If you are listening to the service at home, please feel free to join in the singing.
Dr. Jon B. Holland, Director of Music