As stay-at-home orders are lifted across the United States and Canada, MennoMedia released a statement May 19 discouraging congregational singing when physical gatherings resume.
“While singing is considered vital in many congregations, at this time epidemiologists have said that singing together poses an especially high risk for transmitting the virus,” the statement advises.
“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.”
The press release was a collaborative effort of MennoMedia staff and members of the committee for Voices Together, the new hymnal to be published this fall by MennoMedia.
The statement acknowledges the sense of loss that people who love to sing may feel. It suggests:
— 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.
The statement observes that “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.”
It offers these suggestions to make the most of on-screen worship:
— 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.
The statement concludes: “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.”
MennoMedia is the publisher for Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada.