There is big news for local churches in the shift. Healthy Church Teams (HCTs) have done extensive work through the pandemic in developing plans for ministry based on the Technical Assistance Manual (TAM) and other resources provided by the workgroups. During the month of June, churches will be invited to celebrate the work of the HCTs and bring them to a close while transitioning to local church Post-COVID Re-entry Groups (PRG).
Major decision-making on COVID-mitigation methods will revert to local churches as of July 1, with district superintendents providing a review of plans. A new, greatly-reduced document will succeed the current TAM to guide local churches as they develop their plans.
“We have come a long way in this journey,” Bishop Lewis said, “and one of the blessings we have noted is that we have not had any major breakouts reported in our churches. I ask local churches to continue their good work as they now take on an expanded role.” The bishop noted that the conference may revert to previous standards if circumstances change (such as a new surge or variant spread).
Changes to Indoor Singing Guidelines
Also announced at the webinar was a change in indoor singing guidelines. Studies on the effectiveness of vaccines now indicate that those who have received mRNA vaccinations and are two weeks beyond their final dose seem to be at low risk for infection and for transmission. While still waiting to hear how variants of the COVID-19 virus may affect this picture, the guidelines are being adjusted to allow for limited singing indoors under the same conditions as outdoors with those who are fully vaccinated being the singers for now.
Under these new guidelines, fully vaccinated groups of up to four (4) persons who have been fully vaccinated can lead congregational singing and/or offer an additional three (3) minutes of special music indoors if properly masked and distanced, six feet or more. Singers are encouraged to sing sotto voce (i.e. in a quiet voice). Participants should be informed in advance that there will be singing so that they may choose their tolerance level. Churches are advised not to ask for proof of vaccination and to operate with an honor system.
Frequently Asked Questions about Indoor Worship Singing
Why do we only allow Fully Vaccinated members to participate in congregational singing?
There is a growing research suggesting that fully vaccinated people are less likely to have asymptomatic infection or transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others. However, singing is still an activity advised to avoid. While singing we tend to inhale more air and exhale droplets and aerosols both more forcefully and in larger quantities. Well fitted masking for singers still largely mitigates the risk associated with the increase in aerosol volume and force while full vaccination further decreases risk. This increased volume of aerosols is why we still ask all fully vaccinated members to wear a well fitted mask, as well as to sing sotto voce (softly, under the breath). Keeping the duration of singing shorter further reduces risk associated with both more forceful projection and increased volume of aerosols generated. In all cases distances should be maintained and ventilation should be operated to circulate air throughout the sanctuary.
What does Fully Vaccinated mean, and do we need proof?
Fully Vaccinated individuals are members who received the 2nd doses of Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech, or 1st dose of Johnson & Johnson 2 weeks prior to attending worship. We do not ask for proof. We operate in an honor system, knowing that all members are gathered to worship God and live up to the call to ‘Do no harm.’
Does it mean unvaccinated individuals cannot sing?
We recommend that unvaccinated individuals abstain from singing. As you refrain from singing, we still encourage you to read and reflect on the lyrics or hum along the melody. Remember that singing requires you to inhale more air, as you also exhale more particles. We want to make sure that you are safe, as we are mindful of the safety of another unvaccinated individual. We strongly encourage you to consider receiving the vaccination, unless you may have medical reasons. In our call to ‘Do no harm’ we are to contribute to the communities effort to reach herd immunity. Join us in this effort.
Why limit it to 5 mins and Sotto Voce?
We acknowledge the risk of singing and how it can transmit the virus. By limiting the time, and asking Fully Vaccinated members to sing sotto voce (in a quiet voice, as if not to be overheard) together we mitigate the increased risk of singing. Remember that you can also add an additional 3 minutes of a special song, led by four (4) persons who have been fully vaccinated, masked, and six feet or more apart.