Worship in a pandemic world: no singing, no problem



Give your worship a boost by discovering other ways to engage the senses and lift your spirits

By Anne Russ | Presbyterians Today

Woman in church holding up "jazz hands"If you are gathering for a masked and socially distant in-person worship during the Advent season, it’s obviously going to be very different. Advent without singing? Without our responsive liturgies? Will it even feel like Advent?

Even though we are called the “frozen chosen” for good reason, this season is an excellent time to introduce some movement into worship. Consider adopting a different prayer posture for each Sunday of Advent. Worship leaders can choose postures that best suit their particular congregation and context, but here are some suggestions:

Hope  Hands stretched up above the head and eyes to the sky in hopeful anticipation.
Peace Arms reaching out in front with palms upstretched, ready to receive God’s peace.
Love  Arms crossed over one’s chest.
Joy Jazz hands! Or maybe just a single fist jabbed up at the sky, à la “The Breakfast Club.”

Smells and bells

While I’m not a fan of incense (because of allergies), now is a really good time to take a note from our high church Anglican friends and trot out some smells and bells. Consider using a chime from your organ or a single handbell to replace a traditionally sung response. Relate the number of chimes to something specific to your theme or your congregation. Do a survey of your congregation to discover their top five holiday smells, and then have those scents welcome people as they come in the door. Baking bread, mulled cider, peppermint and even a freshly cut fir tree are smells that are easy to replicate and shouldn’t bother even super-sensitive noses. Consider different ways sounds and smells might be incorporated in places and spaces that used to be occupied by singing and/or speaking.

Anne Russ is an ordained Presbyterian pastor currently residing in New York City. She runs an online faith community at doubtingbeliever.com and recently launched a podcast, Bible Stories for Big Kids.

An Advent Call to Worship

by Anne Russ

We enter Advent ready to receive Your Word,
For this season does not call for speaking or shouting or singing.
It is a season of listening.
Word of God, speak.
Speak to our grief, our loneliness and our uncertainty.
Speak to us of the hope and peace that are in short supply.
Speak to us of the love and faith that will sustain us in the weeks and months to come.
We stand ready to hear.
Instead of seeking to be heard,
Word of God, speak.


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