Church of St Paul & St Margaret (1866)
Town Street, Nidd, N.Yorks, HG3 3BN
10.30 Prayer Book service every Sunday
Like most people, I can't wait to sing in church again. Recordings may be beautiful but there's no real sense of involvement.
Since 15 August, small professional and amateur singing groups have been allowed to perform to silent audiences in church. These groups are defined as "set" groups, suitably distanced between themselves and listeners. So why can't small, distanced, masked congregations also sing at modest volume levels? The only reason I can see is the word "set".
A congregation is random, an established choir is fixed or set. Though why a set group is safer than a random group (with precautions) I don't know.
Research at Bristol University, supported by Public Health England, seems to suggest that singing at modest volume is no more dangerous than gentle speaking.
I've emailed various church officials to ask what the problems are, when might we sing again, and pointing out various anomalies in the Covid-19 guidance.
The Archdeacon said there were inconsistencies but "they are the government’s directions and not ours." A spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury was courteous and gave me a "script" reply with web links to relevant guidance but he didn't answer my specific questions. He did, however, suggest that I contact the Bishop of London (Rt Revd Sarah Mullally) who leads the Church of England’s recovery group on Coronavirus. Before ordination she was Chief Nursing Officer in the Department of Health and was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 2005 for her contribution to nursing and midwifery - ideally placed it would seem to understand health and church needs.
She answered personally and specifically in an email of some length. It was clear she had read my original.
"I share with you a strong desire to see our congregations again able to sing in praise of God in our churches, but I am equally conscious that there is still much we don’t know about this virus and that it is still very much with us. … We very much hope both progress on the research goes forward swiftly and that the infection rate declines in the near future so that the guidance can come forward for us to sing in time for our major festivals that bring so much joy to so many."
So there we are, watching and waiting. I just hope that by Christmas we may all be able to sing again. The irony is that we will probably be able to sing carols in pubs but not in church!
David Andrews. Organist at Nidd Church.
18 September 2020.