Leadership begins with passion. Ian Schneider @ Upslash
I know I hit a chord (get it?) when I receive a bunch of emails following a blog post. And last week’s “How Can I Keep from Singing?” was one of those posts:
1. You offered creative ways to avoid singing “out loud” during in-person worship: lip synching, humming, signing (yes! a way to become more inclusive), and finally, the innovative winner: singing into a paper towel tube stuffed with cotton balls. This last one definitely gives new meaning to the term You“Tube.”
All kidding aside. Please do not try this in your congregation! The Bishop and Greater Northwest Cabinet have just released guidelines for the safe re-opening of area churches: Reimagining Life Together. It includes – take a deep breath – no singing in the physical church during the first four phases of reopening. This is deeply painful for many but it’s based in Wesley’s admonition to “Do no harm.” It’s also based in science. If you need a refresher on the science, go back and read the links in last week’s post (German Churches Stopped Singing to Prevent Virus’s Spread and The Risks – Know Them – Avoid Them) and then read this one from the Wisconsin Council of Churches, Church Music in the Age of COVID-19.
Here’s how you can make a joyful noise: with drums, bells, sticks (which children will undoubtedly love), piano, guitar, and organ. Someone can beam in via YouTube or Vimeo with a hymn or worship song. You can snap your fingers to the music or pat your legs. You can get creative.
For many of us, singing makes up our spiritual DNA. As heartbreaking as this is, it’s for a season. It’s not forever. Do no harm.
2. One of you – after reading my blog about singing (or not singing) in the church – asked, “Wonder why she didn’t stick to talking about money for the church?”
First of all, ouch.
Secondly, it’s a great question. Here’s how I responded:
Generosity is inspired in so many ways - and singing is one of the things people feel most passionately about in the church. I'm hoping that leaders will begin thinking now how to prepare people in the pews for more change. That inspires confidence and confidence inspires generosity.
Clergy and lay leaders you are in a moment of unprecedented influence. Your words and actions matter. We’ve seen across the country numerous churches act in ways that go against the admonition to “do no harm.” But that’s not you.
You can be that non-anxious presence.
You can assure your congregation that denominational leaders are acting in their best interests.
You can give your people more, not less, information. People deserve to know why certain decisions were made. Giving your congregation access to Reimagining Life Together will provide context and excellent information.
You now have to prepare people for even more change when phased-in church starts. Where they will sit. What they must wear. Who can they talk to. How they will praise God.
Your leadership can inspire generosity. Over the past two months you have reimagined ministry in ways no one thought was possible. If you’ve done it well, people will trust in the continued work of the church and will support your congregation with their tithes and offerings.
These are not easy times by any stretch. But God has put you in your congregation at this time for a reason. That is a privilege. That is a heavy responsibility. That is a blessing.
Let’s finish with one more way you responded to last week’s post:
3. You sent in your favorite arrangements of “How Can I Keep from Singing?” Enya, HBCU Oakwood University, and Cathedral of the Rockies’ Dr. Paul Aitken (take a moment to read the notes about what inspired Paul to write this rendition; they are especially moving and the music is beautiful).
Music – in your heart and in your spirit and in the privacy of your own home – can keep you going. Keep on singing.