Singing in Church: A Brief Follow-Up

Since posting my thoughts about the restriction on group and congregational singing in our province due to COVID I have received some interesting and helpful feedback. So I thought I’d take a moment to provide some brief clarification.

First, I agree completely that we are called to respect our governing authorities. When I consider our provincial authorities–those who have been tasked with providing leadership during the pandemic–they have had a most difficult and unenviable job. I believe they are doing their utmost based on their understanding of the situation and what is required to see us through it. Moreover, I think that our chief medical officer ought to be rewarded with ample vacation time as soon as possible.

Second, I think that church communities ought to abide by the COVID guidelines set out by our health authorities. This means voluntarily restricting ourselves and doing our utmost to respect the government, love our neighbours, and be faithful followers of Jesus. Of course, the difficulty arrives when some see these priorities as coming into conflict with one another. For example, in our province we are not yet being required to ask for proof of vaccination in order to attend Sunday worship. I hope this does not happen. I think it would be unnecessarily divisive and profoundly unhelpful.

All I intended to say in the original post is that I don’t see the government as having authority to place a restriction on whether a congregation can sing as a group. I am aware not everyone will agree, including other Christians. Saying this is not suggesting a course of action but rather a posture to adopt. Saying this is not to question the motives of specific government authorities but rather to invite conversation on a more fundamental principle.

My question, however, is this: with respect to restrictions the government can place on a community of faith, what is the limiting principle? Is it possible for a government to try and put unreasonable and illegitimate restrictions in place on churches, even in a time of COVID? How would we recognize that if it happens? I think being responsible citizens includes asking these and other similar questions. We don’t ask such questions in order to impugn the motives of our governing authorities but to keep them accountable. I also think the pandemic of the last two years has brought such questions to the fore in our culture in a way they haven’t been for a long, long time. I think, therefore, that while we ought to give our provincial governing authorities the benefit of the doubt, we should still be aware that these questions are there and are worth asking, as people of faith and as citizens of a democratic society.

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