Rule barring Plainville Choral Group from singing hymn at senior center under review

Published on Tuesday, 20 August 2019 16:32


PLAINVILLE - Can religious songs be sung at the senior center? For many years it was an unwritten practice that they could not, but after a discussion with the center’s choral group that issue is now under review.

Resident David Spencer has been a member of the Plainville Senior Center Choral Group since February or March of this year. He said that the groups go to sing at three local nursing homes, two of which have Catholic affiliations.

“We sing a lot of old corny songs - it’s nice,” he said. “But, last fall, we decided to introduce one hymn. It seemed to be appreciated, especially at the Catholic places. This June, while we were rehearsing, the director (Shawn Cohen) and assistant director (Ronda Guberman) broke into our rehearsal and started talking to us about ‘separation of church and state.’ It was totally unexpected, until I saw the some of the causes that the management advocate for,” he added.

Spencer said that he has raised the issue at recent Town Council meetings, which he attends regularly. He said that he was told that the policy was under review.

“I think that in September, before we start up again, we will receive an edict that we can’t do them now,” he said. “I don’t think it’s being reviewed at all. I don’t know what the big deal is. It’s only one song that we perform once a month and we’re not trying to convert anyone. To me, this is a freedom of speech issue. They’re censoring free speech.”

Cohen said that in past years the senior center has an “unwritten practice” that the choral group did not do any religious songs except on Christmas, when they could sing Christmas carols. However, this was never an official, written policy. Therefore, she said that she doesn’t blame the choral group for not knowing.

“That’s what I’m trying to figure out,” she said. “I’m trying to see what we can or can’t do. It’s under review and we should probably reach a decision within the next week or so.”

Cohen praised the work that the volunteer choral group does. She said that they have been active for 44 years.

“They are phenomenal,” she said. “We support them; we did fundraising for their electric piano. They visit people at these nursing homes, many of which used to come to the senior center, and it is a real highlight for them. They bring joy to a lot of people and it is lovely.”

Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or

Posted in The Bristol Press, Plainville on Tuesday, 20 August 2019 16:32. Updated: Tuesday, 20 August 2019 16:34.