Music Ministry during COVID-19 (Part 1)

Music is the vehicle for the liturgy. It is the canvas upon which words may have both sensual meaning and intellectual meaning. In this two-part blog, Dr. Adán Fernández shares ten practical ideas for music ministry during COVID-19.

Like many churches in the United States, my church was also devastated by COVID. Congregational singing, rehearsals, and performances were canceled. We were going to perform Mozart’s Requiem alongside the best singers and instrumentalists in Los Angeles. I had grown the children’s choirs and even added a special advanced children’s choir. I even began an orchestra of about twenty kids that partnered with the local community college. 

It was all gone when COVID arrived.

But this is not the time to mope or feel discouraged. God calls us to be faithful disciples and it is because God has faith in us that we cannot give up. This does not mean that we continue to have rehearsals when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised churches to follow safety precautions that involve no congregational singing. It means that our imagination must take charge in how we not only maintain a music ministry but how we allow one to thrive during the pandemic.

First, we need to prioritize safety and pray for those who are sick. Second, we need to remember what it is our jobs are. Sure our jobs say that we direct the choir or serve as organist for the noon service or mass. But the question we need to ask is why these things are not only wonderful to have but necessary in our faith lives. Music is the vehicle for the liturgy. It is the canvas upon which words may have both sensual meaning and intellectual meaning. It must connect us to the divine and uncover our spiritual blindspots with the help of capable musicians and hymnists. It must teach us by means of singing to each other lift communities as the image of God.

If this is our job, we then understand that the choir, the band, the orchestra, the organ, are all a means to accomplish this. Therefore, we must seek new ways to accomplish our goals in new ways. Some of these methods may be familiar and some may not.

See next week’s post for ten ways to do just that.

Dr. Adán Fernández is the university organist at California Lutheran University and director of music/organist at Holy Family Catholic Church in Glendale, California.