Do not sing together if you are gathering physically for worship

Coping with temporary loss of in-person congregational song

With stay-at-home orders being lifted across much of the U.S. and Canada, churches are thinking about what it will look like to open their doors again. Yet because the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much with us, it is up to churches to consider how to do so safely.

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. 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.

As people of faith who love to sing, we in the church deeply feel this loss. 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.

When feeling a sense of grief about the temporary loss of in-person singing, keep the following in mind:

  • 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.

When you worship on the screen, consider the following:

  • 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.

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.

 

***These statements should not be taken as medical advice. Follow guidelines from your local health department for COVID-19 prevention.***

Ways to sing together if you are gathering online for worship

One of the most potent ways we cope with hardship is by singing and praying together. Amid the loss of in-person gathering, congregations have shown a tremendous amount of creativity, whether worshiping via video conference platforms such as Zoom, live-streaming a service, or pre-recording the service. While we deeply feel the loss of the ability to gather physically together for worship and song, there are many ways to sing together virtually.

Members of the Voices Together committee have put together the following tips for singing in online worship, along with examples of songs that work well in these formats.

  • Use actions and movement to see other people’s engagement.
    • Allelu, Allelu, Allelu, Alleluia, Praise Ye the Lord (standing up and sitting down)
    • Holy Lord (Steve Bell) – CCLI #2850298
    • Like a Rock (Linnea Good) – OneLicense #97534
    • As I Rise (All Sons and Daughters) – CCLI #7016414
  • Use call-and-response, with a leader singing one phrase and another leader responding with a different phrase. This can be done with muted worshipers.
    • Guide My Feet – HWB #546 – public domain
    • Asithi: Amen – HWB #64 – public domain
  • Try lining out, with a leader singing one phrase and another leader repeating that phrase along with muted worshipers. Most songs can work this way; be sure to use short fragments.
    • God Welcomes All (John Bell) – OneLicense #72484
    • Cantai ao Senhor (O Sing to the Lord) – STJ #12 – public domain
  • Use a drone by holding a sustained note or chord on mute while one person sings. This works well for chants, American folk hymnody, and other pentatonic tunes.
    • Creator of the Stars of Night (Noel Goemanne) – OneLicense #91537
    • God, Who Stretched the Spangled Heavens – HWB #414 – OneLicense #8704
  • Add additional verses for songs where one word or phrase changes in each verse. Encourage worshipers to suggest additional verses using the chat feature.
    • Peace before Us – STS #16 – OneLicense#00141
    • There Is More Love Somewhere – STJ #109 – public domain
  • Embrace cacophony! Rounds, echo songs, and other repetitive songs work well with overlapping voices.
    • We Shall Walk through the Valley- HWB #412 – public domain
    • By the Waters of Babylon – HWB #148 – public domain
    • Dona nobis pacem – HWB #346 – public domain
    • I Will Call upon the Lord – STJ #19 – CCLI #11263

If your congregation is using recorded music:

  • Sing along with songs recorded by members of the community before worship. This can include more leaders in livestreams and prevent Internet connectivity issues from interfering with sharing music live on Zoom.
  • Sing along with existing videos or audio recordings of your church to share music that is comfortable and is sung by familiar voices.
  • Listen to or sing along with songs recorded by Mennonite musicians or choirs. See the Anabaptist Worship Network’s spreadsheet of existing videos.

 

 

Music and worship leaders gather at Laurelville conference

News release

January 18, 2019

Music and worship leaders gather at Laurelville conference

Eagerness mounts for Voices Together hymnal coming in 2020

MOUNT PLEASANT, Pa.—“I’m amazed at the exhilaration that comes from a room full of voices singing together,” said Brent Alderfer, a member of Blooming Glen Mennonite Church, Pa. and part of a group of 11 persons from that congregation who joined the annual Laurelville Music and Worship Leaders Retreat in western Pennsylvania in early January.

Anticipation and energy for the new Voices Together music and worship collection, which is nearing the end of the research, song collection, and testing phase, was in high gear at Laurelville. A video of singing, plus a photo gallery by photographer Kreg Ulery of participants enjoying the worship, music, and jam sessions can be found on the website for the hymnal at voicestogetherhymnal.org.

Over 150 participants gathered to test and explore songs in strong consideration for the upcoming hymnal. The retreat focused on sections of the book from “Creation” through “Reign of Christ.”

Attendees learned about the joys and challenges of shaping a worship book for the 21st century church and examined leadership skills to take back to home congregations. Emily Rittenhouse, from Blooming Glen, noted, “I got a better grasp of what an enormous undertaking this has been for the team, and how much that has pulled them away from other important things in their lives.” She added, “It is a sacrifice and a gift that will be interwoven into the songs we sing for decades to come.” Project director Bradley Kauffman estimates the team has reviewed at least 5000 pieces of music.

Michael Bishop, pastor of music, worship and pastoral care at Blooming Glen is enthusiastic about the new collection. “Voices Together will honor our past peoplehood, provide tools for living in these days, and draw us toward the work of God, who is always leading into a new creation,” he said. He notes that the team from their church included choir singers, song leaders, and those involved in leading worship. Robin Schilling, a leader from Blooming Glen added, “I was inspired with new ideas for the coming year.”

Tom Lehman, a member of Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship in Durham, N.C. mentioned, “We were encouraged in considerable detail to sing songs in more than our own native language. The idea, of course, is inclusivity.” Alderfer affirmed, “Singing connects us to people around the world.”

Adam Tice, text editor for the hymnal, suggested that a suitable hymn collection should probably include at least a few hymns that the individual user does not appreciate, always mindful that any particular song may be someone else’s “heart” song which resonates deeply with them.

Mark Diller Harder, pastor of St. Jacobs Mennonite Church in Ontario said “I am filled with deep confidence and trust in this dedicated team. There is thoughtfulness and intentionality that balances continuity and change, all with an openness to the Spirit’s leading.”

Pre-orders and final pricing will be available this summer at the Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA gatherings in June and July, respectively.

 

Staff Release
Mennonite Media
More information: LeAnn Hamby at 540 908 3941 or LeAnnH@mennomedia.org.