Singing and speaking in tongues in places of worship are no longer allowed in the state of California. The California Department of Public Health issued the temporary ban on Wednesday in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“Places of worship must therefore discontinue singing and chanting activities and limit indoor attendance to 25% of building capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower,” the new guidelines read.
Singing and speaking in tongues are cornerstones of services at South Sacramento Christian Center.
“In particular, the Black culture, singing in churches goes all the way back from 400 years ago during slavery up until now,” said Pastor Les Simmons. “Singing was our thing that got us through.”
Pastor Simmons said the church moved to streaming services only in April with limited staff that are screened. As the state slowly started reopening, the church also added a few more socially-distanced singers. But now, with the state reversing and some businesses shuttering again, Simmons said churches have to reflect, and possibly rollback too.
“As any good leader or good shepherd would, we’re going to definitely prioritize the safety of those that are around us,” Simmons said.
Rabbi Mona Alfi at Congregation B’nai Israel agrees.
“The way that we worship God best is by honoring each other and the way that we honor each other right now means keeping each other healthy and alive,” Rabbi Alfi said. “What’s the point of praying if it’s going to lead to someone’s hospitalization or God forbid, their death.”
Alfi said she understands the importance of health guidelines which is why she leads socially-distanced services online with no members in the synagogue. She added that the synagogue will have to look into how the new statewide ban will impact their livestream.
“We’re each 20 feet apart from each other. So we’re twice as far as the more conservative guidelines in terms of social distancing. We’re also all facing the same direction so that none of us are breathing in each other’s air,” she said.