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UK Allows Safer Church Singing in Time for the Holy Week

The UK government updated its guidelines on March 26th relaxing restrictions on communal singing in church.

The guidance permits congregational singing outdoors as long as the church follows social distancing and gathering protocols. Small church choirs are allowed to practice and perform indoors, reports Premier Christian News.

The government also loosened its gathering rules, authorizing two households or up to six people to meet outside. The church is expected to follow suit.

Christians welcome the latest development of Covid-19 guidelines. The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, said, “We are grateful to the Government for clarity on guidance for singing as we head into Holy Week and Easter.”

We are grateful to the Government for clarity on guidance for singing as we head into Holy Week and Easter. —Sarah Mullally, Bishop of London

She added that, “This will allow churches and cathedrals to plan their worship to help online and in-person congregations to mark the journey of the passion and resurrection – a journey of hope, while making local arrangements to ensure transmission risk is minimized.”

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick wrote on Twitter that he was “pleased to have clarified guidance on choirs ahead of Easter services.”

On Palm Sunday, clergy across England sang inside cathedrals after many months of silence. Three lay clerks at Ripon Cathedral in North Yorkshire performed to a small group of congregants who attended the in-person service while many others watched online.

“A marvelous thing” was how the cathedral’s Dean, John Dobson, described the presence of the trio during service. “It is wonderful that we’ll see at the front, when the procession arrives, lay clerks – only three, we’re only allowed three at a time – but we will have lay clerks singing and that’s a marvelous thing.”

Previously, the government banned communal singing and restricted “singing or chanting essential to an act of worship” to one person only wherever possible. A maximum of three people were allowed to sing “where it is essential to the service” while observing social distancing which has caused frustration because much church music is written in four parts, according to The Church Times.

The government was cautious in relaxing some of its guidelines. Singing is considered a high-risk activity because of the possible transmission of Coronavirus-carrying aerosols. UK Health minister, Lord Bethel, expressed sympathy for the sentiments of church leaders regarding communal singing.

“It has been one of the most heartbreaking aspects of this pandemic, that those who seek sanctuary through worship have not been able to join the rest of their community; but the practicalities of the spread of the virus are unavoidable; so we will be led by public-health advice in this matter,” the health minister explained.

After much deliberation and considerations, the government finally eased its restrictions, allowing live music performance during worship with clear instructions regarding its limits. Christians in the UK can now savor sacred choral music, an important part in observance of the Holy Week.

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