Patheos Evangelical blogger and Professor of Literature emeritus Gene Veith proclaimed this week that “Singing is unlikely to spread COVID-19.” He apparently came to this conclusion after reading a couple of German studies, and now he’s ready to jump back into congregational singing, taking other congregations with him.
Not so fast.
I’ll admit that I have been overwhelmed by the online discussion of this topic since the now-infamous webinar last week hosted by the American Choral Director’s Association, in which medical experts warned that choral or congregational singing should not be considered safe at this time. We may be waiting years until it is once again safe. A number of other recent studies have concurred with these findings. Look them up and read them for yourself.
No, I am not ready to take one particular perspective as gospel on this issue. I hope and pray that the worst-case scenario is incorrect, and that we can resume choral and congregational singing in the near future. But I’m not a doctor, scientist, or reseacher. Until the consensus of the medical community says that it is safe to sing together again, I will not be taking that chance. I refuse to participate in the politicization of this issue. This isn’t about politics, this is about public health and the safety of all of us, especially the most vulnerable among us.
I’m a little surprised this keeps needing to be said: COVID-19 is not the flu. It is a novel coronavirus to which society has no previous built-up immunity. It attacks multiple systems in the body and can cause an excruciating decline and death. While age and underlying medical conditions exacerbate the danger, there are plenty of documented cases now of COVID-19 killing otherwise healthy people of all ages.
In light of what we do know about this disease, posts like Veith’s seem especially foolish and dangerous. I pray that Veith’s own congregation suffers no ill effects, but I pray nobody listens to him. Pastors, you need to protect your sheep. Choir directors, let’s try to do the same.
I so badly want things to be different. I hope and pray that we can sing again before 2022. But until we know for sure, we must continue to assume that it is not safe,. Hoping for the best in situations of life or death is not good enough.
So please, do your own research, but don’t listen to people like Veith. Don’t listen to politicians. Don’t listen to me, either. Listen to those who are in the position to make authoritative medical and scientific decisions.
Now, listen to my favorite choral arrangement of one of my favorite hymns.