In a crisis people sing

A woman sings from her balcony Italian government continues restrictive movement measures to combat the coronavirus outbreak, in Rome, Italy March 14, 2020. REUTERS/Alberto Lingria

During Lockdown 1.0 we saw reports of people singing from balconies and porches across Europe, songs of courage and songs of hope. Nine months many countries are in Lockdown 2.0, this post that I wrote seems relevant today.

In a crisis, throughout the Bible, Gods people sing, but its seems like in this pandemic we simply can’t. In Psalm 121 you see God’s people on their annual pilgrimade. On this journey they faced insecurity and dangers from every side. When they felt vulnerable, fragile and unsafe they did not cover their mouths with fear, instead they sang against danger.

Singing is banned in churches in many churches across Europe. Many are saying online sung worship doesn’t work. But, I know it does. I’ve experienced profound singing both from our weekly Zoom church service. But also through joining in with Come Sing with me on Facebook live. Although it feels like we can’t sing, there seems to be a huge appetite to find out about singing online. I’ve been writing a blog since March 22nd when we first went into lockdown in the UK. My most read blog is by Professional Musician Katie Lewis, so far 7537 people have read this. Throughout the Bible God’s people sang when they faced a crisis and this crisis is no different.

I had the privilege of hearing Jonty Allcock speak at the CMF annual conference. He spoke on “Finding hope when the storm clouds gather”. He taught from the book of Habakkuk and spoke about honest faith. He said that real faith questions and watches. His description of the structure of the book felt strikingly relevant. He said “Habakkuk goes like this… Question, Answer, Question Answer, Song”. This is such a good structure for us as God’s people now and in some ways it doesn’t surprise me that singing as God’s people seems to be under such fire.

What will you do in Lockdown 2.0 to encourage God’s people to ask questions, find answers and sing together? What will you do for those who are vulnerable and won’t be able to return to church in person for awhile?

Here is our story from Southampton Lighthouse International Church about setting up church online…

March 22nd 2020. For many of us today we’ll be sad that we can’t meet in person. For years we’ve left our home around 9.45am to arrive at Lighthouse church. On arrival we enjoy a warm embrace and a chance to catch up with old friends. The strangeness started last week when I could no longer hug people on arrival. I felt the need to show my affection some how, so I took hand gel and offered it to anyone I met. I’ll miss teaching kids: hearing their stories of the video games they’ve played, their fun facts from the week. I’ll miss singing in a room with 100 people. I’ll miss the plentiful snacks and chat after the service and the offer of prayer and support by friends. 

But today is a new day. We won’t be leaving our house to go to church and this makes me sad. Psalm 121 reminds us that when God’s people on their annual pilgramage faced insecurity and dangers from every side they sang. When they felt vulnerable, fragile and unsafe they did not cover their mouths with fear, instead they sang against danger.

So today I’m joining my church through Zoom and we as a family intend to sing in the face of danger. We love our church and we love the way people are warm, hospitable and welcoming. Today we’re working hard to make that happen online. We’re starting the meeting early at 10am because “some” people like to arrive early at church. Half an hour before the meeting starts we’ll open the call. When people enter, we’ll say hi and split them into small breakout. Each room has a designated welcomer assigned in each room. 

To make the meeting run well we’ve got a technical host and a team of co-hosts. We’re going to create small rooms for people to pray and discuss questions. We’re going to offer support for those using the App for the first time. 

Once everyone is in the call, we’re planning on having our service as normal. We’ll sing, hear from God’s Word, pray and listen to testimonies. We’re experimenting with doing discussion groups. Research shows that optimal conversation happens in groups of 5, so after the talk, we’ve got discussions for the groups. We’ll aim to keep them small so they have a feel of intimacy and care. 

One of the things I’ll miss is the after service chat, tea and encouragement. We’re going to leave the Zoom call running after the service. We’ll encourage guests to go and make a cup of tea. Then come back and chat with anyone remaining on the call. If too many join in we’ll assign them to breakout groups again.

There are of course some draw backs and fresh challenges, but we’ll be working on those in the coming weeks.

Studies show that up to 70% of communication is non-verbal. For the communicators and those listening we need to rethink how we communicate. We need to rethink how we express gratitude to those leading services. 

Imagine giving a talk to an empty room. Or, imagine speaking to a room of babies, wondering if they’re understanding anything you’ve said. 

Friends that have spoken online recently have described the intensity of the experience. They said how detached the whole experience is for the speaker. So today when I’m listening I’m intending to use the chat function and non verbal functions in Zoom. By using this we can express by our words and icons what my eyes and body are saying. We intend to encourage the clap and high five function. We will also encourage guests to write in the chat.

A few weeks ago two women came up to me after the service I had hosted and said, “thank you for your words; they meant so much to me.” And you know what, it also meant so much to me; I’d chosen to be vulnerable on that day. So today after the service, please consider how you will encourage your pastor, worship leader, host. You can’t do it in person, but you can do it in other ways. Give them a call, a text, a Whatasapp video message. Thank them and encourage them. As the tech host I’ve saved the entire group chat and sent it to the team involved; this is a great way to encourage them!

We can be family together. In fact, if this week is anything to go by there is an open door for better and deeper community than we’ve ever had before. We can choose to go online, choose to be family together and choose to reach the world around us for Jesus.

God is opening a door for a new way of communicating. Doing church online with a conference app can actually change and enhance relationships for the better, it doesn’t just pass or transmit a message it helps create community:

“Bringing the church service to our home has meant that mum has been able to be ‘at church’ for the first time since before Christmas. Wonderful. This is amazing. Thank you. Praise God”.

“Wonderful time and great opportunity to talk to two others I’ve never chatted with before! Thanks guys! Be blessed and positively ‘infectious’ this week.”

“Thank you for putting this together. I never thought that this could be possible. Awesome!” 

Psalm 121 was a song for rough and uncertain roads like ours. The refrain over and over again in these eight verses was that the Lord can and will keep them. The psalm was written because the long and lonely road to Jerusalem was dangerous — and because the long and often lonely road we face is dangerous too. Your world might have become very vulnerable and fragile over night. The Lord will keep you. So lets sing new songs of grace in this time of trouble.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

Read more

Let us sing by Jonty Allcock

Worship on Zoom tips and tricks by Katie Lewis


Gods people sing by Olly Knight

Finding hope when the storms gather by Jonty Allcock

Published by Nay Dawson

Hello and thank you for reading my blog. I'm married to Jon and live in Southampton with our two girls. I work with IFES Europe as their Regional Training Co-ordinator, training staff and students across Europe. In 2019 I set up Passion for Evangelism a network of creative, public female speakers. I'm a Trustee for the Cowrie Scholarship Foundation raising essential funds for disadvantaged Black British Students. I'm also a Trustee for Friends International helping welcome International students to the UK. In response to the war in Ukraine I helped set up Ukraine Connect matching refugees and hosts across Europe

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