Restrictions on congregational singing in churches loosened

Published 11:26 pm Saturday, May 9, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Gov. Andy Beshear on Saturday loosened some of the restrictions on congregational singing when churches reopen and said the state was lifting its ban on in-person services following court rulings on Friday.

Beshear’s administration had said that churches may resume meeting in person beginning May 20 and released a list of requirements Friday that needed to be followed.

However, two federal court rulings say churches can begin meeting in-person as soon as Sunday.

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At his daily news briefing on Saturday, the governor urged congregations to “take your time” before reopening and to follow the requirements to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.

“Be careful. Make sure that you do it right,” he said. “Don’t come back just to come back.”

The restrictions on congregational singing also changed a little from what was listed in Friday’s requirements. Congregants can participate in singing provided they are wearing face masks and standing greater than six feet social distance from others. It states singing during services creates a higher risk of spreading infectious particles.

The requirement said choirs should avoid singing and alternatives to congregational singing, including pre-recorded or live instrumental music during services, are recommended.

Many Kentucky Baptists expressed concern over the Friday announcement where congregational singing was not part of what was allowed when churches reopened.

The Beshear administration put out the altered requirements Saturday.

“The new language will be helpful to Kentucky Baptists because singing is part of who we are as followers of Christ,” said Dr. Todd Gray, executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. “Of course, churches will want to be careful, but when we come to church we will want to sing.”

Beshear also said houses of worship must make sure they are prepared to reopen and emphasized heavy cleaning of all surfaces.

Beshear’s order lifting the ban follows a federal judge’s ruling Friday that Tabernacle Baptist Church in Nicholasville, along with churches across the commonwealth, can hold in-person services Sunday despite the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the order, Tabernacle, which is an independent Baptist, has been holding drive-in and online worship services, but the congregation has a “sincerely held religious belief” that those forms of worship “do not meet the Lord’s requirement that the church meet together in person for corporate worship.”

The church has said it will follow social distancing guidelines and the Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines for mass gatherings for in-person services.