In place of the Chaplain’s Musings, for the next three weeks we will be sharing some “Views from the pews…”
If anyone has any pastoral needs during this time please contact the wardens (email@example.com).
Worship without song?
Aged 12 I had very firm views about singing in church. I had an eclectic taste – traditional hymns, worship songs, taize… I wasn’t fussy, so long as I could join in. There was only one thing more pointless than a said service without any hymns, and that was a service with music you weren’t allowed to join in with. After being taken to Choral Mattins in Westminster Abbey, I declared the sermon to have been the best bit of the service.
(I can’t remember, it may have been a genuinely interesting sermon, it was almost certainly the first time I had heard a woman preach…)
Growing up involves developing ones ideas… by the time I reached university I had learnt to appreciate Cathedral Choral Evensong; that standing up and sitting down in the right places could be a meaningful part of the congregation’s involvement in the worship.
This play-off between active and passive involvement in worship has been on my mind again, in these changed Corona-times. In our online worship resources we have managed, over the weeks, to include a wide variety of voices in numerous ways – each week a few people have been active contributors (let us know if you would like to take part in this way in future weeks), the rest of us have been active listeners.
In the privacy of one’s own home, one can join in with the virtual choir and sing to ones heart’s content, but over the weeks I seem more and more to have learnt to listen. This learning to listen proved of great benefit the couple of times I have attended R2C. I was able to appreciate the words and music Stephen was singing, rather than being aggrieved that I couldn’t join in.
Just before the start of Lent, at one of our last “normal” services, Kara preached on the summary of the law: “Love God and love your neighbour” Congregational singing is, for many, an obvious and important part of their expression of their love of God. Our acceptance of the need to put the protection of others above our own enjoyment is part of loving our neighbour.
The science is not conclusive and not all churches are taking the same approach, but research suggests that singing releases a greater volume of droplets than talking or breathing. Therefore in order to protect others we have to fast from congregational singing. In the same way social distancing means we have to fast from sharing the peace, standing together at Communion, sharing the chalice and refreshments… and hygiene rules mean that we have to change our service time, fewer of us fit in the church building and those who have travelled to risk areas or have symptoms are required to worship at home. These are safety measures, formulated in risk assessments, but at heart they are expressions of loving our neighbour – putting concern for their safety and well being first.
As the weeks turn into months, waiting for things to return to what they were looks like becoming a very long wait. So we must all consider anew… how do we, in these changed times, best express our love of God and neighbour in the context of worship?
(One example of new ways we are sharing togetherness in worship was our Pilgrimage in the Park last Sunday – if anyone took photos that they would like to send in for the website, please e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org – and then those who couldn’t make it can see what we got up to and join with our prayers for the children starting and returning to school and for Olivia – who was baptised on Sunday.)