Thursday, September 10th, 2020
“O my strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress,
the God who shows me steadfast love.” (Psalm 59:17)
My siblings in Christ,
Lifting our voice in prayer and praise can play a central role in our worship. It has therefore been with the utmost reluctance that I have restricted it. In order to best guide and support our churches, the staff and I are continually reviewing the latest science. In August a significant study on the performing arts released its preliminary findings. After careful consideration and conversation with church musicians, the Clergy Health Committee and HVAC specialists, I have concluded that it is reasonable to allow churches to expand the role of singing under very specific conditions.
As with all of our loosening of restrictions, this is entirely optional and no church should feel pressured to do so. And as I have said before, the safest option is not to take the risk at all. Therefore, churches should carefully consider their capacity to take this on before proceeding. If a church feels both called and prepared to implement these protocols, they should first notify me via email, (copying Canons Wamsley and Berlenbach) so that I might review their plans.
Effective September 20, churches may expand their choral singing in accordance with the following conditions:
Additional resources which detail the study findings, recommendations on ventilation, and specific guidance on masks can be found in the Appendix at the end of this letter.
Considerations of singing aside, it is critical for all churches to understand the importance of maximizing ventilation. We are increasingly understanding that the virus is transmitted via aerosol droplets produced when breathing, speaking or singing. I strongly encourage every church to read and implement the recommendations found in #5 above.
As I have said before, our journey through this pandemic is long. I pray that these updates represent a milestone of progress. The day will come when we will all be able to lift our voice in songs of praise. What a beautiful glorious day that will be. In the meantime, we continue to journey together, strong in our faith and in our love for one another. Most of all we have Jesus Christ and it is his love that makes music resound in our hearts and resonate in our souls.
The Rt. Rev. Daniel G. P. Gutiérrez
Appendix: Links and Resources
Study: More information from the Performing Arts Study may be found here.
Ventilation: A tool to help calculate rates of circulation for your own particular spaces can be found here.
The original calculator from Harvard and the University of Colorado, cannot be used to make those calculations but contains instructions and other helpful information can be found here.
The Wall Street Journal recently published a helpful article on ventilation but it is behind a paywall. If you are a subscriber you can find it here
Masks: It is recommended that for all singer’s masks meet ASTM Level 3 standards (see below). This includes the following characteristics:
Multi-layer, surgical style, and either washable or disposable after each use.
Completely cover the nose and snugly fit the contours of the face – for example, medical grade masks with no gaps that fit tightly around the edges. One way to evaluate a mask’s effectiveness: does it leave an outline on your face when it is removed?
Most singers will need two types of masks: one for general use, and one specifically for singing.