by Will Peycke
I used to think the only people who wore masks were bad guys and superheroes, but now everyone is wearing them. And, as odd as it looks and feels, there seems to be a good reason for it. While masks don’t do much to protect the wearer from others, they seem to be reasonably effective at protecting others from the wearer.
You’ve probably heard this by now, but just in case you haven't, here goes: there is increasing evidence that this coronavirus is spread primarily by people who do not have any symptoms. This means that people who feel perfectly fine are unknowingly spreading the virus to others, some of whom will become severely ill as a result. The virus seems to be spread either (a) through contact with someone who has the virus or (b) through the air in group gatherings.
We can guard against infecting others through contact by practicing social distancing. (No hugs or handshakes, please!) This is fairly easy to control yourself. In group gatherings, however—like the on-site worship gatherings restarting this Sunday—we are all stuck breathing the same recirculated air. In these settings, we can’t do much to protect ourselves against the virus… but we can do something to avoid accidentally spreading the virus to others. Yes, I’m talking about wearing masks.
This is why I can no longer walk into Menards, my eye doctor’s office, or a number of other places without a mask. If I don’t bring my own, both locations are happy to sell me one for a dollar or two.
Don’t worry, we won’t be selling masks at the door Sunday morning. And we won’t be requiring masks for entry. But we will have a box of extras at the welcome desk for anyone who doesn’t bring a mask but is willing to wear one out of consideration for others during the worship gathering—especially while singing.
Apparently, singing is one of the best ways to share your germs with everyone else in the room. I won’t try to explain the science of it, but enough studies and articles are circulating these days that you can read up on it yourself if you are interested. We’ve shared it before, but this article from The Gospel Coalition discusses the issue in the context of church gatherings.
So out of love for others, we have determined to require masks for adults while singing for the first three Sundays we are back in the building: May 31, June 7, and June 14. We will re-evaluate once Indiana enters stage 4 of the “Back on Track” plan. Even if you disagree with wearing masks and don’t wear one anywhere else, we still encourage adults to wear masks when gathering in the building, and we expressly ask that you wear one while singing these next three Sundays. (If you would prefer not to sing rather than wear a mask, that’s fine, too.)
The elders discussed this at length this week, and while we readily admit we are not experts on any of this, we have decided to err on the side of caution. Will singing with a mask on be uncomfortable? Yes. Won’t 100 mask-muffled voices sound odd? Probably. Are we being overly cautious about this? Quite possibly. But we can still sing, and we can still be together, and that’s something to celebrate! And we can do so while loving each other and valuing the good of others more than our own preferences and opinions.
Because of that, I don’t think God will receive any less worship because of how our singing sounds or feels. In fact, singing through a mask this Sunday—out of love for your neighbor—might be the most worshipful singing you’ve ever done.