Many health officials have warned of the dangers of singing in church during the Coronavirus pandemic. One of the big reasons is that airborne droplets generate six times the number of particles emitted during normal talking. A 2019 report published in the scientific journal Nature said that particle emission is correlated with the amplitude of vocalization – or loudness – so singing releases more particles than other types of speech or breathing. It even spreads the virus more than coughing.
California’s Department of Health’s reopening guidelines for houses of worship directly banned singing.
“Strongly consider discontinuing singing, group recitation, and other practices and performances where there is increased likelihood for transmission from contaminated exhaled droplets,” the report warned.
“Activities such as singing and group recitation negate the risk-reduction achieved through six feet of physical distancing,” the report also noted.
Questions about singing, more than anything else has caused feelings of anxiety among evangelicals during the pandemic. News reports say that 59 of 78 singers in Berlin’s Protestant cathedral got sick after a choir performance. In Washington, 45 of 60 members of a state choir contracted COVID-19, and two died, despite taking precautions during a practice session.
Another big reason singing can be dangerous is the lack of proper ventilation in churches, which is a significant concern given how COVID-19 spreads. There is no question that singing is a super-spreader of the virus. Given the risk of spreading through singing, it may be time to rethink signing right away when your church reopens.
Not singing in church can be especially disheartening and challenging for Christians because singing is such a big part of worship. We know this because the Bible tells us so. We are commanded in Scripture to sing. Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Another text that talks about the biblical command to sing is Ephesians 5:18-19. The passage says, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…” When we sing, we are doing what God asks of us.
When we sing, we also glorify God. Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5 brings this out powerfully, telling us to sing “to God” and “to the Lord” because He is the object of our praise. Ephesians 5:19 says, “singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” We sing because of God and are enabled to sing through Him. Singing also has an incredible way of bringing our heart, soul, mind, and strength together so that we focus entirely on God. In an age of distraction, singing has a way of grabbing all our senses and focusing us on God.
One thing we can do is pray deeper prayers silently. Jesus calls us to pray. This is how we communicate with God and develop a closer relationship with Him. Prayers are a great way to focus on hope and strength, and the best prayers come from the heart. While memorized prayers can be a good-baseline, non-memorized prayers are great because they come from your heart and reflect where you are in that very moment. Maybe your church can spend more time for prayer and reflection during the service. This is also something you can do privately at home.
If you are at home and social distancing, turn up the praise music. While we may not be able to sing at church, we can sing in the safety of our homes. The Bible tells us, “And David danced before the Lord will all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14). Sing and dance like David. Turn up the praise music. Lift your hands in the air and dance with joy. Psalm 149:3 says, “They should praise Him with dancing. They should sing praises to Him with tambourines and harps. Many worship songs will light up your soul and increase your faith in God. These songs are electrifying and filled with a powerful message about faith and God’s love. It is good to be reminded of this outside of church. Also, take the time to sing and dance with your kids. They will love these moments too.
Until a vaccine and drug treatments are readily available, it may be challenging to sing in church while also keeping worshipers safe. If you choose to sing in church, social distancing, masks, gloves, and spacing are key though they do not eliminate the risk of spreading or getting the virus.