By Rev. Karen Hernandez
There is widespread longing for our singing and music to be back to “normal” in worship. Because of this, many worship leaders and pastors have found a wide variety of creative ways to continue incorporating music into worship throughout the pandemic. Here are ten ideas for your consideration and perhaps inspiration:
10. Share music from other churches in our United Methodist connection or beyond.Get the church’s permission first, of course, then invite the voices of Christian kindred from across the country or around the globe into your worship service in this way. (You can make use of United Methodist worldwide virtual choir renditions of “Silent Night” and a Christmas medley.)
9. Gather a virtual choir.
Now that everyone with internet access is within reach, invite singers from your church and beyond to add their voices to a virtual choir. Members who moved away, snowbirds, friends/family/neighbors who aren’t comfortable inside the walls of a church, curious folks, and anyone who wants to sing can all join in! This article from ResourceUMC can help you get started.
8. Feature a soloist or small ensemble of singers.
Though we are many, we can undoubtedly worship with one voice or the voices of a few ensemble members singing during worship. Depending on your space, resources, mitigation measures that are accessible to you, and the current COVID situation in your community, either live or pre-recorded vocal performances can add to worship.
7. Be an active online worship participant.
Even if you’re worshiping with a pre-recorded service, try to experience it like worship rather than another Netflix show. When the candles are lit, light one at home, too. When there’s a hymn on-screen, sing along. If you’re at home, you don’t have to wait for a hymn, but you can freely sing along with every soloist, too—and add your vocal embellishments if you’re so inclined!
6. Hands-on singing!
Voices aren’t the only way to sing praise—use your hands! Adding some sign language singing to your service is not only creative, but it may also reach those with different learning styles and those who are too self-conscious to let any sound escape their lips during hymns. You can find much more info at the United Methodist Committee on Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ministries website and through Google.
5. Make a joyful rhythm!
Find your stash of rhythm instruments, make your own (there are many online suggestions and how-to guides), or acquire some and get praising! Some of our churches have found that kids are willing to share the supply of church tambourines, and offering instruments to everyone adds a new way to participate in worship. Invite worshipers to add rhythm to any or all music during the service.
4. Sing beyond Sunday.
There’s no need to limit singing to the appointed worship time. Some have found joy in gathering for an outdoor hymn sing on a Sunday afternoon, caroling on a Saturday evening, or a Zoom sing-a-long midweek.
3. Get more thoughtful about the theology of our hymns.
Some don’t hear the words when we sing them because we’re distracted by the notes and tempos. What if the hymn is played while the congregation uses the hymn text as a unison reading or a litany? At least one church has found that this is a great way to appreciate our hymns’ theology and use hymns that are unfamiliar or musically challenging to the congregation.
2. Try more music, not less.
What if the entire service was music—sometimes the focus and other times adding richness while voices prayed, read scripture, and even preached? A willing musician, some technical prep in advance or a combination of these could have music throughout the worship. How powerful the silence could be if most of the service was filled with music!
1. Get out of the pews to lift your voices.
Just as worship doesn’t always have to be indoors, it doesn’t have to be in just one location either. Worship could start outdoors with a hymn that prepares people to enter the [indoor] worship space very intentionally and as an act of community. Similarly, it’s possible to walk out of the sanctuary and continue the praise. Some liturgical experts would point out that the added element of movement (from one location to another) also helps to make the worship experience more meaningful and memorable for those involved.
Rev. Karen Hernandez is district superintendent for the Sage District in the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.