I spent my last month as a pastor singing to the phone in my camera on Sunday mornings.
Many of my colleagues have been doing this for about four months now.
And even as churches explore how to gather back in person, it turns out that we may not get to sing together again for much longer, since singing carries a high risk of spreading the virus:
Although research on the spread of COVID-19 is rapidly changing, singing in groups might be deemed too risky to enable churches to return to anything approaching “normal” for a long time.
So, until further notice, congregations are being advised to consider alternatives to singing. Worship may still be joyful, but it will likely be more quiet.
Because of COVID-19, churches no longer reverberate with song; hymnals are neatly stacked and projection screens blank. Even as church leaders plan for reopening, scientists warn that it might be too early to resume singing in groups.
The ability to sing might be one of the biggest things that many church people are lamenting about this time. If given the choice between singing to your computer screen by yourself and being together yet not singing at all, at least in the former you get to actually lift your voice to your favorite songs of praise.
Given the (very, very poor) way this pandemic is being handled in the U.S., there's an increasing possibility that we'll be singing our favorite carols by ourselves in December. It will be greeted as a great cause for lament, of which every Sunday leading to it is only a small precursor.
What is worship without singing? What is Sunday morning with just words and no music? These are questions with which churches will need to struggle.
And yet it turns out that refraining from singing has become a form of loving and protecting one's neighbor. It will be a sacrifice made for the sake of others. And maybe if viewed that way, such a cause for sadness can be turned to one of relief and comfort.