How can we keep from singing?

How can we keep from singing?

Gretchen Bashforth

Music ministry during a global pandemic

It’s early 2020 and news of a serious, virulent illness starts circulating. Research began as COVID-19 spread around the globe; and soon, choirs in several countries were identified as ground zero for breakouts. It was determined that the very act of singing, with its prolonged, sustained, deep breathing, was a “super-spreader.” Church, school and community choirs everywhere were told to stop singing immediately to quell the spread of the virus.

This was stunning and disheartening news for Church musicians. Singing lies at the very core of Christian faith and worship. Singing Biblical truth and deep theology imprints the Word of God on our hearts and minds, enriches and elevates worship, and declares His glory to the world. In Ephesians 5:19-20, Paul calls the church to, “Address one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So how do we answer this call, when we’re told that singing could be dangerous and even deadly?

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“Address one another in psalms and hymns
and spiritual songs, singing and making melody
to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks
always and for everything to God the Father
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
– Ephesians 5:19 (NRSV)

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Singing Christians jumped into action! As FPC shifted to virtual worship, the music ministry focused on ways to help members sing while worshiping safer-at-home. The Chancel Choir’s ministry continued via archival videos of favorite anthems. The worship team led as a smaller, physically distanced group. Our children’s Worship 101 program offered online worship and music content, to encourage families to sing together at home.

Music industry studies were soon commissioned to determine if there are “safe” ways to sing in person. Their results outlined several protocols that greatly reduce risk, which were quickly implemented at FPC. Chancel Choir members comfortable with these new protocols began a rotation of small ensembles on Sunday mornings.

What sweet joy it was to hear that first ensemble sing together! Lifting praise together again brought tears to the eyes of many. Participating choir members have expressed that, although there are only eight, distanced singers in the loft, they feel the presence of the full Chancel Choir singing with them.

“We are one in the body of Christ when we bring
our voices together to
proclaim His glory!”
– Gretchen Bashforth

Hymn writers Keith and Kristyn Getty wrote in their book, “Sing!” that we are “… created, commanded and compelled to sing.” Before birth, our voices are designed by God to make musical sounds and to connect our bodies, hearts and minds in unique ways. In scripture, singing is referenced 400+ times, with at least 50 direct commands to sing. And as the Gettys’ also wrote, “God’s love for us inspires our response of love for Him and calls forth songs of joy from our lips.” The Sing! Global virtual worship conference, reminded and encouraged us in that even further. Christians around the globe, including here at FPC, heard from musicians, theologians, and artists how to infuse the Word into our daily lives, worship and mission by singing the Biblical truths found in the reat hymns of the church.

And so, a favorite hymn reminds us of God’s call to sing as we navigate through uncertain times:

“No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that rock I’m clinging.
Since love is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?”

We will continue to sing our faith together, in the midst of and in spite of a global pandemic. As faithful people of God, created, commanded and compelled to sing, how can we not?

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