It was hoped that government guidance against congregational singing in church might be revised when the national lockdown in England comes to an end on 2nd December. Yesterday (29 November) it was made clear that indoors there will be no change – churches are advised not to allow singing, chanting or shouting indoors due to the COVID risk associated with increased aerosol virus transmission. However new guidance for the Christmas period will allow congregational singing outdoors, provided that social distancing requirements are observed:
Here’s a run-down of what can be done congregationally outdoors, but do use the links to the official guidance to confirm how your local plans can fit, be safe, and remain legal:
Congregational singing outdoors
Congregational singing outdoors is allowed. However, the congregation should follow social distancing of 2m, and event organisers should ensure that this is maintained. The maximum number of attendees should be calculated to ensure that this level of social distancing is maintained. Where possible attendees should remain seated, so as to reduce the risk of virus transmission. Risk assessment in the planning of outdoor events should include consideration of how organisers will ensure that 2m social distancing is maintained throughout and outdoor event
Once again, these criteria ought to be reflected in a risk assessment of the event, and failure to do so could give rise to trustee liability under health and safety legislation and insurance issues.
Choirs singing outdoors
The regulations for choirs singing outdoors at events is related to the specific tier area in which the event takes place. In tier 1 and tier 2 areas the choir should be organised in groups of 6 maximum, and must not interact, ‘mingle’ or otherwise socialise together. In a tier 3 area only household groups may mix outdoors. Therefore, if the members of the choir are from more than one household they must not interact, ‘mingle, or otherwise socialise. Choirs should observe the safer singing principles and also the guidance for the performing arts, found at COVID-19: suggested principles of safer singing – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) and Performing arts – Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) – Guidance – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
What does this mean for our gatherings?
The guidelines are clear, and allow us to plan to share the hope of the incarnation with some certainty, even if more hurriedly than usual. We still should not sing congregationally indoors, but some churches will be able to utilise choirs in their venues. There’s great potential for outdoor activities, appropriately planned – you should have contingency plans to cope with adverse weather conditions.
We want to demonstrate that Light has come into darkness – we have good news to proclaim. Outdoor expressions of hope gained traction earlier in the year, when the nation turned out week after week to appreciate the NHS. The natural reticence of neighbours to step out onto their doorstep or balcony has broken down. Let’s harness the mood and get out there. Publicise with social media – it’s easy to update dates and times on Facebook and Twitter if there is weather disruption. Doormat drop a flyer to point people to your web or social media sites. Why not share the song lyrics that you intend to use via social media.
Our churches may have to sacrifice some comforts to present the gospel in this way, and for many it will certainly be very different to their standard experience, but it’s hardly ‘sitting in chains’, and it isn’t an attempt to circumvent the guidelines and promote our ‘rights’ – something that, sadly, we’ve been aware of with some fellowships in the past few weeks.
Let’s share our plans and ideas for proclaiming Jesus this Christmas and so spur one another on to share the Light.