30 March 2021, The Tablet

'Sing out' for Easter – but only in small groups

'Sing out' for Easter – but only in small groups

Two Catholics from the Manchester Branch of the Legion of Mary sing hymns outdoors in Platt Fields Park, Fallowfield, Manchester.
John Fryer/Alamy

Government officials have made a small amendment to lockdown rules on church singing in time for Easter, while praising Churches and other faith organisations for their work during the pandemic. 

According to updated guidance on places of worship, singing from March 23 is allowed in small groups indoors and is permitted “only where essential to an act of communal worship. This should be limited to as few singers as possible.”

This, however, effectively rules out congregational singing. 

But with outdoor singing in the grounds or the outdoor space of a place of worship, the congregation can sing, says the Ministry for Communities, Housing and Local Government (MCHLG). 

The update also allows for weddings with up to six attendees, while funeral attendance remains at a maximum of 30 people. All religious services continue to be governed by social distancing rules, and the need for mask-wearing and hand-sanitising. 

In their latest message to faith communities, sent to mark the one year anniversary of the first lockdown, the MCHLG praised faith communities for their work in the past year, saying “we wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your support throughout our response to the pandemic in the past year”. 

It also went on to ask them to share any further thoughts they have on the impact of the pandemic on faith communities. In recent months, the Government has asked faith organisations, through the Places of Worship task force, to help encourage their ethnic minority members to get vaccinated, and to also help them with post-Covid planning. 

The Catholic bishops’ conference previously issued a Vade Mecum, or guidance note, regarding services during Holy Week and Easter. It advised that there should be no outdoor service for the Easter Vigil on Saturday. Although singing is now allowed outside, the advised cancellation was due to concerns about people not social distancing in the dark. 

It also said there should be no outdoor procession, no carrying of the paschal candle and instead it should be lit before the congregation arrives or at the beginning of the service. The faithful should not have votive candles. Reading should be cut to two Old Testament extracts from the Law and Prophets, plus Exodus 14 and its canticle, and the Gospel. Baptisms, receptions and Confirmations are not recommended. 

On Easter Sunday, Mass can be celebrated as usual, but with no sprinkling of water. 

Traditionally Easter offerings are specifically for the benefit of the clergy. Last year churches were not open at Easter, due to lockdown, causing  major financial difficulties for many priests. 

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