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CHURCH WORSHIP - SUNDAYS AT 10:30 AM
COVID AND CHOIR
As we have now called a permanent Minister of Worship at the church, a number have asked about the future of choir and congregational singing in relation to coronavirus. As pastor, I seek out recommendations from individuals who (1) have expert medical qualifications, (2) have a Christian worldview, and (3) are not politically biased. In the area of music, I also realize that there are generational leanings. Older believers are more inclined to lean towards listening to choirs, solos, and musical productions, while younger believers lean more towards participatory worship where they sing themselves. In addition, for some members singing is an integral part of their corporate worship (as Barney Fife once said, “Can you keep a bird from singing?”) while others rarely sang along with the Praise Team even prior to coronavirus.
Back in March when the virus was first making national news and we were laying out proper steps to take, we followed the advice of Dr. Daniel Chin, an American epidemiologist who led the UN’s response to SARS in China in 2003 and currently works as Deputy Director of the Gate’s Foundation in their program to eradicate TB. Dr. Chin is a committed Christian who has a love for the church as well as a high concern for the health of its members. In addition, we have followed all CDC and government guidelines. So what do Dr Chin and the CDC have to say concerning reopening churches and singing in church?
The CDC recently came out with guidelines which included the bullet point that communities of faith “consider suspending or at least decreasing use of a choir/musical ensembles and congregant singing, chanting, or reciting during services or other programming, if appropriate within the faith tradition.” This bullet point was removed a few days later and is no longer part of the CDC guidelines. The Washington Post, owned by Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon and avid critic of President Trump), quickly picked up on the change and ran a story accusing the White House of endangering lives by pandering to its Evangelical base. The Washington Post story was picked up by numerous other news outlets. The White House contended that the restriction on singing was not warranted.
The original CDC restriction was based on a study entitled “High SARS-CoV-2 Attack Rate Following Exposure at a Choir Practice — Skagit County, Washington, March 2020” published by the CDC on May 15. The study stated that (1) sixty-one choir members met on March 10 for their weekly practice, (2) the average age was sixty-nine, (3) they sat 6-10 inches apart, (4) they practiced for 2.5 hours, (5) they had a 15 minute snack break with cookies and oranges, (6) after practicing they gathered together to stack chairs, (7) there was one member present who was showing signs of Covid-19, (8) the sick member was a “superemitter”, i.e. someone who emits a lot of aerosol particles. Eleven of those present had two or more underlying conditions (not counting age risk). Following the practice, thirty-two members tested positive, twenty others showed signs but not enough to be tested (one was tested a week later and found negative), three of those with two or more underlying conditions had to be hospitalized, and two died with Covid-19 as a contributing factor. The study concluded that the symptomatic “superemitter,” in close proximity to a large number of people (close seating, shared snacks, stacking chairs), led to a “superspreading event,” and “the act of singing itself might have contributed to SARS-CoV-2 transmission.”
Dr. Chin has given his own suggestions concerning the reopening of churches. In an article entitled “When Your Church Reopens, Here’s How to Meet Safely,” published in Christianity Today on May 6 (prior to the current hubbub), he laid out four stages for churches to go through when they come back together depending upon the local trends and number of cases. For his own church in King County, Washington, he would lay out the stages related to the severity of Covid-19 in the surrounding area as follows: (stage 1) less than five people per day on average dying of Covid; (stage 2) less than one person per day on average dying of Covid; (stage 3) less than five new cases of Covid per day on average; and (stage 4) less than one new case of Covid per day on average. He then suggests the following.
All Stages: no choir, no passing of offering plates or passing of communion elements, no shaking hands, physical distancing
- Stage One: no meeting of the church
- Stage Two: meetings of less than fifty, congregational singing with masks on
- Stage Three: meetings of less than one hundred, congregational singing with masks on
- Stage Four: meetings of over one hundred, congregational singing with masks optional.
Dr. Chin also notes that the stages may fluctuate with time, as the virus could reappear or gain more strength after it has gone down for a period.
In Guadalupe County, Covid-19 peaked on May 4 with forty-nine active cases in the county and thirteen active cases in Seguin. The latest numbers, released on May 29, show eighteen active cases in the county and three active cases in Seguin. To date there have been no deaths from Covid-19 reported in Guadalupe County. Our policy to date has been to follow both CDC guidelines as well as the recommendations of Dr. Chin. There will be times when the government overrides Dr. Chin’s recommendations, as when the city went on lockdown and asked churches to livestream rather than have in person services. In those cases, we will follow government guidelines, though always with the realization that our first allegiance is to Jesus Christ and we will not compromise that allegiance.
Service Times & Location
Visit the church at:
1314 E. Cedar St.
Seguin, TX 78155.
Sunday Service Times
Sunday School (All Ages) currently not meeting
Sunday Worship 10:30 AM