Behind the scenes of Voices Together
“Mom Squad” volunteers prepare texts for editing
HARRISONBURG, VA — When some of the individuals working on the forthcoming Voices Together hymnal needed help with a big task, they called their moms.
The task was daunting: the text committee (the group responsible for researching and preparing all aspects of song texts) needed draft files for each of the over 750 songs to be included in the collection. Many of the songs and worship resources selected for the new worship and song collection needed to be typed. The committee needed these files in order to move texts through the committee and on to the engraver for typesetting.
Bradley Kauffman, general editor for Voices Together, and Amy Gingerich, executive director of MennoMedia, brainstormed how to accomplish all this typing.
Gingerich first emailed her mother, Susan Gingerich, of Tiffin, Iowa, asking if she knew of people in her congregation who might be willing to offer volunteer help.
“I thought she might know of recently retired folks who would have interest in volunteering in this way,” Amy Gingerich said.
Susan volunteered to help with the typing and recruited three other women from First Mennonite of Iowa City, where she attends: Donna Darby, Cheryl Martin Miller, and Karen Gingerich (no relation).
Adam Tice, text editor for Voices Together, and Katie Graber, intercultural editor for Voices Together, also recruited their mothers, Joan Tice and Martha Graber, respectively.
Thereafter the editorial team referred to these volunteers as the “Mom Squad.”
The women would get assignments of six to ten items at a time. They would type hymns or worship resources into an editable format and proofread the verses and refrains.
Karen Gonzol, editorial assistant for Voices Together, coordinated the work of these volunteer typists. She estimates that at least 500 song texts as well as items in scriptural and topical indexes were typed by these volunteers. The Mom Squad sometimes had to untangle spellings, markings, and words in languages other than English too.
“I love typing, and I love hymns—the perfect combination for this project,” said Donna Darby of Iowa City, Iowa. When she was leading a hymn from Hymnal: A Worship Book in church one morning, Darby realized that although the congregation was unfamiliar with it, she’d typed it and become familiar with it by going over and over the tune and text.
Joan Tice of Lafayette, Colorado, initially told her son that she was too busy and had enough on her plate. But a week later, she agreed to become part of the effort. “I am so proud to have been able to contribute to helping the hymnal committee with the overwhelming task of preparing their selected hymns for the new hymnal,” she said, adding that she particularly enjoyed being assigned hymns written by her son, whom she called her “favorite hymn text writer.”
The volunteer work found its way into worship experiences for the women, too.
Susan Gingerich was typing a new song that also fit the theme of a Maundy Thursday service she was helping plan. “I received permission to use it in our service. I felt that God dropped it in my lap at just the right time,” she said. “There were several other hymn texts that were timely with events happening in my life.”
Karen Gingerich of Iowa City, Iowa, found a typographical error in a song while singing at her brother’s memorial service. “I was so used to looking at all the words and making sure the spelling was correct that I caught a mistake in our beloved Hymnal: A Worship Book,” she said.
The volunteer work gave the women an inside peek into the new hymnal. “It was fun to see what hymns were moving along to Voices Together, what new composers were being included, what Scripture songs were being added, and what older hymns were being brought back,” said Susan Gingerich.
Kauffman explained why their work was so important. “The text committee analyzed every syllable of every song text, comparing it with original sources and discerning what revisions might benefit 21st-century worship. Because of this, we needed draft files of all texts going into the collection. This generous group of women helped us build essential efficiency into a key part of our workflow, and we are grateful,” he said.
The gratitude also flows from the Mom Squad. “I am so thankful for all the time and care that the committee has put into this project and feel honored to be a small part of it,” Darby said.