Posted on: April 18th, 2019 by Voices Together Hymnal
MennoMedia released the pricing for the full suite of Voices Together products in the most recent edition of Leader magazine as well as in a brochure mailed to all Mennonite churches in the United States and Canada. Releasing all the pricing now allows congregations time to budget for the new hymnal in advance of its fall 2020 release.
Voices Together will be available in the following editions:
Pew edition: $23.99 USD / $32.99 CAD
Large-print edition: $43.99 USD / $59.99 CAD
Accompaniment edition: $89.99 USD / $121.99 CAD
Worship leader edition: $19.99 USD / $26.99 CAD
Projection edition: $499.99 USD / $674.99 CAD
App edition: The pew edition, accompaniment edition, and worship leader edition will be available to purchase separately in the Hymnals app offered for iPad and Android devices by GIA Music, at the same price as their respective print editions.
To assist congregations in purchasing the new hymnal, MennoMedia is offering presale discounts on the pew edition. The presale pricing and quantity discounts are made possible by generous financial donations and will only be available for the first 10,000 copies sold.
Pew Edition Quantity Discounts (full case quantities = 12 per case)
0–4 cases (1–48 books) = no discount
5–9 cases (60–108 books) = 5% discount
10 or more cases (120+ books) = 7% discount
Pew Edition Presale Pricing
Preorder = 5% discount on any quantity
Preorder with payment in full by May 1, 2020 = 10% discount on any quantity
Discounts may be stacked—with congregations applying the quantity discount first, then applying the preorder or preorder with prepayment discount. To receive quantity discounts and presale pricing, all payments for presales must be received by May 1, 2020.
“We have received tremendous financial support to make Voices Together a reality,” says Amy Gingerich, MennoMedia publisher. “Because of that very generous support, we are offering some presale discounts on the pew edition as a way to give back to congregations. We know that deciding to purchase new hymnals and accompanying resources is a significant investment for congregations, and this is one small way we are helping to make that possible.”
Custom imprinting to add a congregation’s name to copies of the pew edition is also available when purchasing 60 or more copies of the pew edition (5 or more cases) for an additional $7.99 USD / $9.99 CAD per copy.
Paul Dueck is a retired music educator and presently employed by Mennonite Church Manitoba at Camp Assiniboia. He is passionate about congregational singing and has led music at numerous Mennonite assemblies. Paul is a member of the Voices Together worship and song committee.
In the summer of 1978, I attended my first Mennonite World Conference (MWC) Assembly. Mennonites from 48 nations gathered in Wichita, Kansas. It was a thrilling experience for me to sing under the leadership of Mary Oyer with the thousands that had gathered. I distinctly remember the choir from the Soviet Union. It was the first time that representatives from Russia attended, and their singing was received with thunderous applause and tears of joy. Nelson Mandela said, “Music is a great blessing because it gets people free to dream. It can unite us to all sing with one voice.” This experience shaped my love for singing with the wider global faith community and sparked an interest within me to search for intercultural songs that could be experienced in local congregations.
Having grown up in Asuncion, Paraguay, I was already familiar with some music from Latin America. It was there that I had the opportunity to learn the play the Paraguayan folk harp and learn some of the traditional music of that country. Later in life, I returned to Paraguay with my wife, Linda, and our three daughters, to teach at the Mennonite Seminary (CEMTA). Students from Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay added to the international flavour of the community. My love for intercultural songs was further increased.
In the summer of 1990, I had the privilege of participating in the music team at the MWC Assembly in Winnipeg, led by Marilyn Houser Hamm and Holda Fast. The songbook that was compiled by Doreen Klassen for this gathering is a rich collection of 86 songs from five continents that affirm unity while also expressing diversity. It was a highlight for me to sing these songs and experience them together with some 13,000 people from the wider Anabaptist community.
I will never forget the final gathering at the Winnipeg football stadium with around 32,000 people in attendance.
In the fall of 1990, I began teaching music at the Mennonite High School (UMEI) in Leamington, Ontario. The songbooks that were available to the students for the daily chapels were the “Mennonite Hymnal” and the “Sing and Rejoice” songbook. Having just come from a thrilling gathering of Anabaptists, I wanted the students to be exposed to some of the global songs that were shared at MWC in Winnipeg.
How wonderful it was that we were able to purchase the International Songbook for the school. One disadvantage of this songbook (for those of us that read music) is that the melody appeared on one page and the text in numerous languages on the opposite page. What joyful surprise it was that two years later the school purchased the “Hymnal, A Worship Book” which included numerous songs from the International Songbook. Our musical world was greatly enriched.
The wide range of musical styles provided a wonderful variety to our chapel services. The enjoyment of singing was so evident, that every week, one day was set aside for “music chapel.” In addition to the “Hymnal, A Worship Book,” we added collections that were used at national youth assemblies, since they contained more of the popular contemporary Christian songs. It is this idiom that will be more broadly represented in the new 2020 hymnal “Voices Together.”
Participants from 63 nations came together to celebrate bonds of faith at the 15th MWC Assembly held in Paraguay in 2009. The assembly began with a procession of banners from congregations, conferences, and other groups from around the world accompanied by a Paraguayan harp orchestra. It was a feast to the senses. Together with a very talented and diverse international music team, we helped lead the people in singing. I will never forget the experience when the electricity went off and we sat in total darkness. It was an impromptu decision to sing together, and I still recall the songs we sang. Three of the songs were “Grosser Gott wir loben dich”, “Alabaré”, and “Siyahamba.” In that last song (“We are walking in the light of God”), the electricity miraculously came back on. Singing each other’s songs was a mountain top experience for me.
It was a daunting task to decide on 44 songs that would make up the MWC songbook. How could we represent the Anabaptist global community in such a small collection? The MWC music committee actually debated whether a songbook was necessary at all, since so many people do not read notes. In the end, the decision was made to go ahead with a downsized version. People still appreciate taking a songbook home and perhaps teaching some of the songs to their home congregations.
At all the MWC Assemblies that I have attended, the highlight for me has been the choirs. They always provide such a glorious, diverse representation of singing in our global family.
Hearing a 160-voice choir made up of 11 Paraguayan ethnic groups was a powerful symbol of unity for me. Adding traditional instruments like Paraguayan harps, accordion, charango, conga drums and other percussion instruments gave it a Latin American flavour. Again, a feast to the senses!
To sing each other’s songs still remains for me one of the most beautiful ways to experience unity in diversity, and so I am very grateful to participate in the collection building for the new “Voices Together” hymnal.
Posted on: April 10th, 2019 by Voices Together Hymnal
HARRISONBURG, Va. — The Mennonite Worship and Song Committee is introducing the table of contents for Voices Together. This marks a significant development for the new hymnal coming in Fall 2020.
Hymnals are typically organized in one of three ways. They are developed around the Christian year (for example, Advent, Christmas, Good Friday, Easter), theological concepts (such as God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, church), or acts of worship (for example, gathering, praising, praying). Many hymnals draw on aspects of all three.
The 1992 Hymnal: A Worship Book is organized by acts of worship. The focus on what songs are doing rather than what they are about was a significant innovation. This table of contents structure is among the most important contributions of the volume to Mennonite worship. Not all contents in Hymnal: A Worship Book are held within the acts of worship structure. For example, baptism, communion, songs for occasions like weddings and funerals, and songs of a more personal nature (the “Worship in Our Faith Journey” section) are held outside this structure.
Voices Together is building on the structure of Hymnal: A Worship Book while developing the model a step further. The forthcoming collection begins with gathering and concludes with sending—everything is held within the order of worship. The overall structure is still present:
gathering with praise and reconciling ourselves to God and one another;
telling God’s story through Scripture;
responding to God’s story by confessing faith, giving, and prayer; and
being sent out to live God’s story in witness and service with God’s blessing.
However, there are two significant shifts. First, Voices Together frames faith and life stories as part of our response to God’s story, signaling that there is space in corporate worship for our stories to be shared and held in prayer. Second, baptism and communion are placed within the order of worship, implying that these are regular worship practices integrally connected to the week-by-week worship life of the church. Even if they are not celebrated each week, baptism and communion are also part of our response to God’s story.
The “Sharing Our Stories” section holds both the faith journey material from Hymnal: A Worship Book and material associated with the ministries of the church at significant moments in human lives. Therefore, child blessings, marriages, and funerals are also anchored in a broader worship context.
“This structure has become a crucial part of our process for selecting content as we work toward providing target numbers of songs within each category, and toward a balanced collection,” says Bradley Kauffman, project director for Voices Together. Worship resources editor Sarah Kathleen Johnson notes that “the worship resources at the back of the pew edition will also be organized according to this structure, although only the major headings will be listed. The worship leader edition will follow this structure as well.”
by Benjamin Bergey, Katie Graber, Sarah Johnson, Bradley Kauffman, SaeJin Lee, Cynthia Neufeld Smith and Adam Tice, members of the Voices Together worship and song committee.
The Winter 2019 Leader magazine from MennoMedia includes many resources for the Lent and Easter seasons, which extend from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost. Lent is traditionally a time for self-reflection, repentance, and seeking transformation through prayer, fasting, and charitable giving. Easter is a joyful 50-day celebration, longer than the 40-day fast of Lent before it. Worship resources for Easter can be used every Sunday from Easter to Pentecost to celebrate the presence and power of the risen Christ.
In addition to general worship planning information, pages 51-80 include new songs and spoken worship resources that are being considered for the Voices Togethercollection. These items correspond to Lent and Easter themes, and many could be used beyond those seasons as well. Context provided here expands on information in Leader magazine to help congregations plan how to use and introduce these new items in the coming months of 2019, Year C of the Revised Common Lectionary.
Your congregation may already subscribe to Leader magazine; subscriptions and individual copies are available at www.MennoMedia.org or 800-245-7894. Sampler downloads and demo videos of new songs can be found at http://voicestogetherhymnal.org/downloads/ (or click the titles of individual entries below).
Winter Leader pages 72-78
(Numbers alongside titles correspond to the numbering system in Leader magazine)
12.-28. Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer
Drawing on Take Our Moments and Our Days: An Anabaptist Prayer Book (vol. 1 and 2), these versions of morning and evening prayer were prepared for the new hymnal by Eleanor Kreider, Barbara Nelson Gingerich, Mary Schertz, and the Voices Together worship resources committee.
The prayers follow a threefold pattern: praising God, listening to God through Scripture, and responding to God by interceding for others. The words come directly from the Bible or are minimally adapted. The three “calls”— to praise, discipleship, intercession — are Scripture words, as are the introductions to thanksgiving and confession. Both services include the prayer that Jesus taught us as well as a song from the Gospels, either of Zechariah or Mary.
The services are suited to group or individual prayer. They are helpful for opening committee meetings or small group sessions. You may adapt these services for public worship, taking care to keep the threefold structure clear: praise, listen, respond. Depending on the setting, you may add spontaneous elements, songs, meditations on the readings, poems or other writings, silence, testimonies, dance, or extended prayers. Alternatively, you may wish to shorten the services. Individual elements from these resources may be used in other worship contexts.
Suggested Scripture readings, additional options, and more information are available at the “Anabaptist Resources for Prayer and Study” section of the AMBS website.
29.-30. The dust that shapes the journey
Resource 30 presents an option for creating a visual focus while the words of resource 29 are spoken. The visual focus could be created for the first Sunday of Lent, or for each Sunday of the season. This could be an especially appropriate call for worship on Ash Wednesday and could also be used each Sunday of the season of Lent.
31. Before you, Jesus Christ
This prayer could be used on various occasions during Lent. Consider singing a setting of “Kyrie Eleison,” Greek for “Lord, have mercy,” in place of the spoken responses.
32. True evangelical faith
These words from Menno Simons echo Isaiah 58:1-12, one of the readings for Ash Wednesday. This resource could be used throughout Lent as we seek a deeper commitment to serving God and the people around us.
33. God, we sometimes find
Although Voices Together provides prepared words for worship, free prayer led by the Spirit is also an important Anabaptist worship practice. Worship leaders are encouraged to pray spontaneously; this prayer from Jordan is an example that was transcribed and adapted from an extemporaneous prayer. It is particularly appropriate for Maundy Thursday, however, it may also have a home in contexts beyond Sunday worship such as schools, homes, social service agencies, or retirement communities.
34. Living God
This prayer references Jesus’ appearance to the gathered believers in the reading from the Second Sunday of Easter (John 20:19-31).
35. Not straight away
This poem may be an especially appropriate call to worship on Easter Sunday. It may also speak hope into seasons of doubt and loss in our lives and communities.
36. Mennonite World Conference Shared Convictions
Lent and Easter have been seasons focused on faith formation since the early church. An affirmation of faith may be a particularly appropriate addition to the order of worship during the Easter season.
In 2006 Mennonite World Conference approved this statement of seven Shared Convictions representing the beliefs and practices of Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches around the world. The statement was adopted after a 13-year consensus-based process of development. It is the first faith statement adopted by the global Anabaptist community.
The Shared Convictions were not created primarily for use in congregational worship,
although some congregations do read them aloud together in worship regularly. Instead of
reading them in their entirety, consider selecting one section and adapting it to serve
as a call to worship, introduction to the reading of Scripture, invitation to prayer, response, sending words, or another act of worship.
All this Pain (Beautiful Things)
This song would be suitable throughout Lent, as we acknowledge the brokenness in the world and our hope for transformation and resurrection. Congregations can sing this song very simply with guitar alone, or with a full worship band. The repetition of “beautiful things” in the chorus with different syllabic emphasis helps to illustrate the beauty found in unexpected places. After singing the verses, chorus, and bridge, the latter two can be sung together to add a new texture and harmony.
Dust and Ashes
An increasing number of Mennonite congregations have begun to observe Ash Wednesday, which initiates the Lenten season. In this song we identify with the dust and ashes in many aspects of life and our desperate need for the cleansing and refreshing water of God’s Spirit. This song can be used on Ash Wednesday, or more metaphorically throughout Lent.
Parts 1 and 2 can be split in many different ways. While teaching this song, it may be effective to have a leader or leading group sing the top line, and the congregation sing the echo. Congregations can also divide by left and right sides, high and low voices, or other ways.
In this song, we join the people of Jerusalem in singing “Hosanna” as Jesus enters into the city on what we call Palm Sunday. The singing could accompany a joyful processional with palm branches.
While a common perception of African music assumes percussion accompaniment, this song is from South Africa, where many vocal genres traditionally do not include drums. Hymnologist Michael Hawn offers the following about HWB 64 Asithi: Amen, also from that region: “In South Africa [this] song is often accompanied on marimbas with an underlying 123-123-12 beat. Since this song is of Xhosa origin, drums are not as commonly used. Handclaps on two dotted quarters followed by a quarter-note beat are appropriate” (full article here). A 123-123-12 clapped beat also fits well with “Sanna, Sannanina.”
Stay with Me
This meditative song echoes the words of Jesus as he prayed in the garden after the Last Supper. The theme and quiet atmosphere suits a Maundy Thursday service, or it can be sung throughout Lent as a call for attentiveness to God’s presence.
This traditional Welsh lullaby is represented in harmony as taught by the Welsh group Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog. Tenors may double the melody if desired. As with many folk tunes, this can also be sung in unison with simple accompaniment.
On Good Friday we remember the agonizing death of Jesus. This Salvadoran text is visceral in its description of Jesus’ suffering, and it invites singers to relate his experience of torture to that of modern victims of violence. This is particularly timely in light of ongoing unrest in El Salvador and other parts of Latin America.
This hymn was written as the “Lamb of God” movement of the composer’s “Misa Popular Salvadoreña” (1980). The same mass also introduced “Santo, santo, santo (Holy, holy, holy),” HWB 400.
The initial address, “Vos sos,” may be unfamiliar even to some fluent speakers of Spanish. It is commonly used in some regions of Central and South America, and is equivalent to “Tu eres” or “You are.”
To My Precious Lord
This contemporary Korean song is widely sung in both Korean national and immigrant congregations, including Anabaptist-Mennonite affiliated churches. It is often used to mark the giving of offerings. Corresponding to the Gospel reading of the 5th Sunday of Lent, it narrates the story of a woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with oil (Luke 7:36-39).
The text, which is rarely set to music, is a first-person setting that establishes an intimate tone and invites the congregation to identify with this woman’s devotion. The hymn then transitions beyond the personal to the ecclesial, as the verses move through Jesus’ passion, death, and the anticipation of Parousia (the second coming).
This meditative song ought to be sung at a slow enough tempo that the leaps feel natural and smooth, honoring the dignity of the musical and poetic gestures. It can be accompanied with guitar or a simple arpeggiated piano accompaniment. A flute or violin may be used to double the melody, which would assist in teaching this song.
How Shallow Former Shadows
In this hymn we confront the realities of Good Friday and the audacity of calling it “good” when it encompassed such horror. This text appears in Hymnal: A Worship Book, but in this sampler it is paired with a different tune.
Now the Green Blade Rises
This song relates to John 12:24 when Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” This also associates the liturgical season with the natural season of spring. The word “Lent” comes from the old English word “lencten/lengten” which refers to the lengthening of daylight hours that occurs in springtime. This ecumenically popular Easter carol appeared in the 1979 Sing and Rejoice supplement; it can be sung throughout the Easter season.
Zisuh Nih A Zultu Hna Sinah (Peace Be with You)
According to the lectionary schedule, this song corresponds to the Sunday after Easter and the appearance of Jesus to the gathered believers (John 20:19-31); it could also be sung to accompany the Old Testament reading about Abraham (Genesis 15: 1-12) on the 2nd Sunday of Lent.
The video linked in this title takes place at Chin Emmanuel Baptist Church (a Mennonite congregation) in Houston, Texas. When Voices Together committee members Katie Graber, Bradley Kauffman, and Darryl Neustaedter Barg visited, the congregation’s worship band taught them three of their heart songs. All were in Chin, a language from Myanmar; two were translations (“What the Lord has done in me” by Hillsong and “Above all,” most famously recorded by Michael W. Smith).
In the video, you can hear Olivia Tluang describe what the third song means to her. She and other members of the band explained that “Zisuh Nih a Zultu Hna Sinah” was written by a Chin person who was an early convert to Christianity. The melody bears some similarity to gospel hymns, especially “I have found a friend in Jesus (Lily of the valley),” published in 1881 and included in hundreds of hymnals since–including the 1940 Mennonite Hymnary. That song has been translated into a variety of languages, so it is possible that Chin Christians knew it as well. However, “Zisuh Nih a Zultu Hna Sinah” is not a copy or translation; it has a text that focuses on the ways that God provides.
Pastor Simon Tlumang provided an English translation of the song, and Voices Together text editor Adam Tice created the metrical text included in Leader. The chorus is translated metaphorically; Pastor Simon gave this literal translation and scriptural references for the attributes of Jehovah in the Chin original:
Jehovah Shammah is living with us. (Ezekiel 48:35)
Jehovah Shalom is our peace. (Judges 6:24)
Jehovah Jireh makes a plan for us. (Genesis 22:14)
Jehovah Sabaoth, we have victory.
Hallelujah, let the name of GOD be glorified.
Seeking Warmth from Charcoal Blazing
The first stanza of this hymn reflects Peter’s denial of Jesus during the night of Maundy Thursday. The second stanza comes from the Gospel reading for the second Sunday after Easter (John 21:1-19), when Jesus appeared to Peter and the other disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
The Lord is Risen Indeed (EASTER ANTHEM)
William Billings’ Easter Anthem, found in the 1969 Mennonite Hymnal, is a good example of regional variety in Mennonite singing practices. Perhaps because Billings is often celebrated as the first U.S. American composer, this song appears to be more widely sung in the U.S. than Canada. Furthermore, while it is well loved among many congregations on the east coast of the United States, people from other areas may have encountered this anthem rarely if ever. If it is unfamiliar, recordings are readily available online to get a sense of the rollicking fugal entries and the celebratory repetitions of text.
While some phrases are written for single voice parts, others can sing along to fill out the sections (i.e. the opening bass line can also be sung with tenors if fewer basses are present). The fermatas at the ends of phrases should simply be held for and extra beat followed by a breath, flowing directly into the next phrase so the momentum is not stalled. The church choir may be the best vehicle for enjoying this anthem on Easter Sunday.
The text comes from I Corinthians 15:19-26, the Epistle reading for Easter Sunday.
Sarah Kathleen Johnson is the worship resources editor for Voices Together and the editor of a companion volume for worship planners and leaders. She is a doctoral candidate in theology at the University of Notre Dame and is currently based in Toronto, Ontario.
Communion is about unity. It is about unity with God and with those gathered together at the table. It is about unity that circles the globe and that transcends time and tradition. When we share bread and cup in the name of Jesus, we celebrate a unity that is both already happening and not yet fully realized.
Perhaps because of the emphasis on unity in communion, questions about the supper often center on who is invited to receive the bread and cup. Are the bread and cup reserved for those who have been baptized or are they extended to all worshipers? In Anabaptist communities, this question takes on particular urgency because of the presence of children, youth, and others who have not been baptized.
Communion is a practice with many layers of meaning anchored in diverse biblical narratives, expansive theological themes, centuries of historical development, and complex pastoral realities.
It is understandable that communities living deeply into different dimensions of the meal have developed different practices regarding who is invited to receive the bread and cup. The subtleties of these discussions are beyond the scope of this blog post. However, the result is that Mennonite congregations in the United States and Canada have a broad range of practices when it comes to who is invited to the communion table.
Resources to support the celebration of communion are being developed for Voices Together, a new worship and song collection for Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA. Because decisions about who is invited to receive the bread and cup are made by congregations, not the national churches, our aim is to provide resources that support a range of practices. Therefore, we gave ourselves a difficult assignment: to develop two invitations to the communion table that could be used both in congregations that require baptism and that invite all present to receive the bread and cup, one invitation that makes a connection to baptism, and one that emphasizes expansive welcome. Here are the preliminary results, which you are welcome to try out in your congregation (please attribute to Mennonite Worship and Song Committee, 2018):
Invitation to the Communion Table A
Invitation to the Communion Table B
Invitation A emphasizes expansive welcome yet anchors this welcome in the story of Jesus’ final week and last meal with his disciples, a close and committed while also flawed community.
Invitation B emphasizes a connection between baptism and communion yet anchors this link in the baptism of Jesus as the model for the baptism of all members of the body of Christ, rather than in renewing our baptisms as individuals.
Both invitations are deliberately vague — they do not specify who is invited to receive the bread and cup and who is not.
The Voices Together committee strongly encourages congregations to make intentional and theologically grounded choices about who is invited to participate in communion in what ways.
We also advise that it is usually most hospitable to communicate clearly regarding whatever policy is in place. Communities may also wish to recognize that, even if an invitation is extended to all, some may choose not to receive the bread and cup.
The Voices Together committee is exploring including one additional invitation to the table borrowed from the Iona Community. This invitation celebrates how Jesus is the host of the communion meal and that it is in Christ that our ultimate invitation and unity resides.
Invitation to the Communion Table C
The Voices Together committee welcomes your reflections on these resources as they relate to communion practices in your communities. Comments received before April 1 will be considered in the revision process (SarahJ@MennoMedia.org).
Darryl Neustaedter Barg is energized by leading singing in worship in very diverse styles but feels most at home by the campfire. He is also a communicator employed by both Mennonite Church Manitoba and Canadian Mennonite University and a member of the Voices Together worship and song committee.
How many of the songs in our “Hymnal: A Worship Book” (HWB), and the two supplements “Sing the Journey” and “Sing the Story” do you think are Mennonite? What does that even mean? If it means songs that are embraced by Mennonites in worship, well, the answer might be all of them. If it means songs with what some might call Mennonite theological distinctives, that would be quite a few of them. If it means songs written by self-identifying Mennonites, you might be surprised. The number of tunes, texts and full songs in HWB is less than 60. The supplements might add a couple dozen more.
There is a little place in Manitoba where songs with Mennonite distinctives, written by Mennonites, are embraced in worship, even though we don’t talk about our songs as anything but “our songs.”
In the mid-1990s, a few of us camp staff at Mennonite Church Manitoba’s camping ministry: Camps with Meaning, tried writing songs. I have no recollection of why we thought this was a good idea, but to our great surprise, our efforts were well received, and quickly became part of our ever-evolving camp song canon.
This modest success had us thinking more about the role of music in worship at camp and what we sing.
We recognized the power of music in worship and teaching and wondered if we couldn’t be a bit more deliberate.
There was much great praise music coming to us from the contemporary worship music movement, but we wondered if we couldn’t create music that might put that summer’s Bible Curriculum teaching from a Mennonite perspective right into campers’ hearts.
We organized our first songwriting weekend in the spring of 2000. We specifically invited people who had been involved in leading music at our camps the previous summer. There were no “real songwriters” among us. We analyzed what we liked about other songs, and then spent a bunch of time investigating the Bible curriculum and particularly, the theme Scripture text for the upcoming summer. Finally, we spent time in prayer, inviting the Spirit’s creative movement in us. We all went to individual spaces for a while and, after an hour or two, brought rough ideas back to the circle. A few songs emerged that weekend, and one of them is still sung very regularly to this day: “Lord you’ve searched me”, based on Psalm 139 and 1 John 4.
Every year since, we have gathered camp staff who were involved in music the prior summer to take a chance and become vulnerable by trying to write music together. The process has evolved in a number of good ways, but some of the principles from that first weekend are still very much in place. Some years the songs are awesome and some years they are very much not awesome. But they are ours, and they serve a purpose for that summer: connecting campers from various walks of life with the Good News, via folk, pop, rap, skater punk and everything in between.
All the songs that survived through a summer at camp have been collected on the Camps with Meaning website. It has been gratifying to hear about these songs moving out through the church and serving in contexts we could not imagine. I have heard people claim that this is the largest collection of Mennonite music anywhere. I have no idea if that’s true. I still don’t really know if we can or should call music Mennonite.
It has been part of the work of the Mennonite worship and song committee (creating the new Voices Together Hymnal) to collect music by Anabaptist song writers for inclusion in the hymnal. We’ve found that there are fewer writers creating music for corporate worship than we hoped. This probably says something about the environments we have or have not created for song writers in our congregations, but that would be a conversation for another day.
We do know there will be a greater number of Mennonite created songs in Voices Together than previous collections, possibly even one or two from Camps with Meaning. Also watch for the new Together in Worship website, a project parallel to Voices Together, that will gather worship resources, art and music from Anabaptist creators.
Posted on: February 18th, 2019 by Voices Together Hymnal
HARRISONBURG, Va. — Visual art for the Voices Together hymnal has been chosen by the Mennonite Worship and Song Committee. The 12 visual art pieces selected will appear in the forthcoming hymnal—including the pew, worship leader, digital app, and projection editions.
These 12 pieces of visual art will be placed throughout the Voices Together hymnal, inviting worshipers to encounter God creatively in ways that engage all the senses.
Nine Patch #8, monotype, Brenton Good, 2015; chosen for the theme praying
“Mennonite communities are diverse in terms of language and age, as well as ways of learning and expression,” says Amy Gingerich, publisher at MennoMedia. “Including a series of visual worship resources in the bound and projection editions of the new worship and song collection celebrates that diversity.” With guidance from a visual art committee composed of Randy Horst, Merrill Miller, Tom Yoder Neufeld, SaeJin Lee, Sarah Kathleen Johnson, and Bradley Kauffman, the hymnal committee chose visual art to represent the following themes:
Advent and birth of Jesus
Life, teaching, and ministry of Jesus
Death and resurrection of Jesus
Holy Spirit, Pentecost, church
Service and witness for peace
Each of the 12 works selected for the collection is by a different artist and in a distinct style. Brenton Good’s Nine Patch #8 was chosen for the theme of praying, and Anne H. Berry’s Alive was created for the theme of death and resurrection of Jesus (both pictured here).
“Our hope is that including visual art in Voices Together will encourage congregations to invite visual artists to share their gifts in worship alongside other music and worship leaders,” says Sarah Kathleen Johnson, worship resources editor for Voices Together.
“We aspire to honor a diversity of human experiences including race and ethnicity, class and economic status, age, and ability,” says Bradley Kaufman, project director. “We aim to celebrate the theological diversity of the Mennonite church and to provide multiple ways of envisioning and encountering God, one another, and creation.”
Alive, pen and ink, Anne H. Berry, 2018; created for the theme death and resurrection of Jesus
“The theme of death and resurrection is challenging in the sense that both words tend to conjure binary associations of ‘light/good’ versus ‘dark/bad,’” said Berry, creator of Alive. “It was important for me, consequently, to integrate the imagery of life and death together in the composition, uniting light and dark in a complementary way. The visuals provide a certain level of agency for people like me—people of color—who want to see ourselves acknowledged and affirmed through positive representation.”
Katie Graber is an ethnomusicologist who studies race and ethnicity in a variety of contexts including Mennonite music, American music, and European opera. She has taught classes on Western music history and world music, and she accompanies Suzuki recitals and school choirs. She leads singing at her church in Columbus, Ohio, and chairs the Intercultural Worship committee for the Voices Together project.
When Hymnal: A Worship Book was published in 1992, it contained both familiar and new songs. The next worship and song collection, Voices Together, will also include songs from past and present, and from around the world in a variety of languages and musical styles. One of many streams of content the committee is caring for is Indigenous languages and voices. We will incorporate worship resources such as prayers emerging from Indigenous Christian contexts and readings that address the history of colonialism and movement toward reconciliation (such as a territorial acknowledgment; for examples, see the Doctrine of Discovery Coalition’s worship resources and these resources from KAIROS, an ecumenical group in Canada). Voices Together will also include Indigenous song: tunes, texts, and translations. These worship elements are an important aspect of recognizing the diversity of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada, and of acknowledging our Christian and colonial history in North America.
In the late 1800s, scholars in the U.S. and Canada began to “collect” and “preserve” songs and traditions of Indigenous groups. While there were some noble reasons for these projects, they were also very much tied up with power and control. For example, the U.S. government funded research on songs, linguistics, and kinship systems at the same time they were prohibiting rituals, disallowing Indigenous languages in schools, and allotting land to intentionally break up tribal units. These goals and outcomes cannot be disentangled from one another. Today, there are initiatives to return ritual objects and human remains to their rightful locations and communities, but in the midst of these efforts, sacred songs cannot simply be taken home. There are histories of elders being reluctant, or even refusing, to teach songs to ethnomusicologists because they understood this reality. Digitized recordings from the 1890s and beyond (such as this Library of Congress collection) attest both to this collecting and to the gaps where songs were not given. In Canada, a national Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established in 2008 to document the impacts of Indian Residential Schools funded by the federal government and operated by churches for the purpose of stripping Indigenous children of their language and culture, an act of “cultural genocide.” Many church bodies, including Anabaptist Church Leaders, have formally apologized for their involvement. The 2015 final report includes 95 Calls to Action, including calls specifically for churches. This is one small step in an ongoing and multifaceted journey between Indigenous peoples and Settlers in Canada. As central practices in the faith and life of Mennonite communities, worship and music must be considered in relation to this history and the work of reconciliation.
In light of this context, how can the Voices Together committee be intentional and respectful about including songs from Indigenous communities?
We have worked to engage Indigenous Mennonite people and congregations to learn more about their worship practices and how they would like their music to be represented in a denominational publication. For example, a Vital Worship Grant allowed several committee members to travel to White River Cheyenne Mennonite Church to hear about their history and participate in worship (see video below and read Keshia Littlebear-Cetrone’s contribution to AMBS’s Vision journal for more on this topic). We have also consulted Cheyenne and Navajo songbooks used by Mennonite congregations, as well as ecumenical worship resources. Additionally, we have had personal, phone, or video meetings with Steve Heinrichs (MC Canada Settler-Indigenous Relations), Mennonite pastors who have Indigenous constituents, and representatives of other denominations (including the United Church of Canada and Anglican Church of Canada) who have engaged similar questions of how Settlers should or shouldn’t sing and worship with Indigenous communities.
As we consider songs to include in the new collection, we consider context, sources, and the great diversity of beliefs and practices among North American Indigenous people. For example, many groups sing Indigenous songs as well as European, North American, and other styles of music in English or other translations. Voices Together ought to honor all of those traditions as truly part of Indigenous experience, rather than representing only music that non-Indigenous people expect to hear. Geraldine Balzer, who shared insights with committee members from her experiences working and worshiping with Inuit communities for many years (and who wrote this analysis of recent Mennonite collections), cautioned us to go further than legal copyrights when we think about sources. In many Native American cultures, songs are understood as given — from the Spirit to a human recipient, and from one person or group to another. If we take this seriously, we cannot print a song in our Mennonite hymnal simply because other denominations have already published it.
In addition to important questions about ethics and representation, the committee also considers whether a tune and text is accessible to non-Indigenous singers. If a song’s rhythms appear difficult, or if the range is wide, some congregations may be reticent to try it. We hope that singers have the grace to try new songs with open minds, knowing that each song is meaningful to someone else and has the potential to be meaningful to them as well. Our goal is to create a worship and song collection that allows people to raise their voices together and meet one another as creations of God — and therefore to be bound to work for peace and justice with and for one another. In this way, perhaps, we can experience a divine presence that is larger than any of our individual and group identities.
Adam M. L. Tice is text editor for Voices Together. His hymn texts appear in numerous recently published hymnals. He lives in Goshen, Indiana, and attends Faith Mennonite Church.
The Fall 2018 issue of Leader magazine includes a section of material under consideration for the Voices Together worship and song book being published in 2020. This post provides background and performance suggestions for those songs, which are being used this Advent and Christmas by Mennonite congregations across the U.S. and Canada.
In the Beginning
A Texas native, Chris Shelton is pastor of Broadway Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. “In the Beginning,” a metrical paraphrase of John 1:1-14, is among his first publications. It is paired with the German tune LASST UNS ERFREUEN, which presents a wide range of options for singing. It can be done paperlessly, with a soloist singing the stanzas and the congregation singing the “Alleluia” sections from memory. The melody is versatile enough to welcome a variety of accompaniments, ranging from guitar to organ; for some congregations a cappella singing will beautifully carry the text. Consider varying the musical texture throughout the hymn by contrasting unison with harmony, low voices and high voices, and differing instrumentation.
Unexpected and Mysterious
Jeannette Lindholm is a professor of English at Salem State University in Oregon. Having published her first hymn in the Evangelical Covenant Church’s 1996 hymnal, she subsequently studied hymn writing with Carl P. Daw, Jr., at Boston University. “Unexpected and Mysterious” was first issued as a choral anthem in 2004. Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006) paired it with the Calvin Hampton tune, ST. HELENA.
Calvin Hampton (1938-1984) was a prolific organist and composer. This tune is among his most widely published and sung. It is most often paired with the text for which it was written, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy.” Its shifting rhythms and unusual harmonic palette make it an evocative vehicle for Lindholm’s text. Having an ensemble prepare the first two stanzas may allow the congregation the opportunity to navigate the melody smoothly. This piece is an instance in which the challenges of learning may illuminate the meaning of the text more fully. And of course, because the text is written in a widely-used meter, it may be paired with a familiar tune for more immediate accessibility.
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
“Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” is a familiar and beloved Advent text by the prolific Charles Wesley (1707-1788). Knowing that Wesley frequently wrote many more stanzas than are found in contemporary hymnals, the Voices Together committee hoped to expand upon the two included in Hymnal: A Worship Book by including more of the original text. Upon examining Hymns for the Nativity of Our Lord (1788 edition; originally published in 1744), we found that Wesley only wrote two; however, the following hymn drew upon many of the same themes, and even repeated a few of the same rhymes. That led us to suspect that he wrote both around the same time. We drew upon that second text, “Light of Those Whose Dreary Dwelling,” to provide a second stanza.
Welsh composer Rowland Hugh Prichard (1811-1887) wrote the tune HYFRYDOL (pronounced “hu-fru-dul”) when he was only twenty years old. Its versatility is evident in its appearances in Hymnal: A Worship Book. It is paired with four different texts there, as well as one each in Sing the Journey and Sing the Story.
With Mary, Sing Magnificat
“With Mary, Sing Magnificat” is also by Jeannette Lindholm. While its first line points to possible use during Advent, its wide-ranging themes make it suitable for many other uses throughout the year. It begins with reference to two familiar Biblical canticles — the Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55, and Miriam’s song, Exodus 15:20-21. Further references give voice to women often ignored or forgotten: Anna (Luke 2:36-38), Rizpah (2 Samuel 21:1-14), and Shiprah and Puah,described here as “clever midwives” (Exodus 1:15-22). Beyond simply cataloging Biblical women, the hymn invites all singers to emulate their courage and prophetic voice.
English composer and hymnal editor Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) used the folk tune FOREST GREEN with “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” which has become the standard pairing for that text in the British Isles. Consider using folk instruments like fiddle and guitar to provide a dancing feel to the tune, evoking Miriam’s dance.
Poor of the Earth
Brooklyn-based hymn writer Jacque Jones served as President of The Hymn Society from 2014-16. With a background in theater, she often presents imaginative tellings of Biblical narratives from various perspectives, as with the shepherd in “Poor of the Earth.” The plaintive folk tune WAYFARING STRANGER allows for an expressive rendering of the text, especially with its repeated question, “How Will I Know?” Accompaniments ranging from bluegrass/folk to jazz can be appropriate; a simple a cappella rendering of the melody would also evoke the lonesome feeling of the text quite powerfully.
In 2017 the editors of a forthcoming Spanish/English hymnal (Santo, Santo, Santo, anticipated in 2020 from GIA Publications and the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship) invited me to provide English versions of a number of Spanish language hymns. Included in the set was the beautiful Argentine carol, “Noche anunciada.” I submitted the piece anonymously through the Mennonite Worship and Song Committee web portal. The arranger, Carlos Colón, is originally from El Salvador and works at Baylor University. If fluent Spanish speakers are not available to help, online videos of choral arrangements of the song can aid leaders in preparing the Spanish pronunciation. The tune lends itself readily to guitar accompaniment.
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks” was one of the earliest English hymn texts written in a narrative form and not based on the Psalms. Author Nahum Tate (c. 1652-1715) anticipates later work by Isaac Watts in integrating Gospel material, while still remaining close to the King James version of the scripture.
The tune by George F. Handel (1685-1759) is derived from a soprano aria in his opera Siroë, Re de Persia (Siroes, King of Persia), 1728. It was adapted for congregational use by the 1790s.
Solemn Stillness, Weary Streets
Song writers Maria and Christopher Clymer Kurtz live in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and attend Park View Mennonite Church. In “Solemn Stillness, Weary Streets,” they integrate images from various Christmas carols as well as the nativity narratives found in Matthew and Luke. Although presented in the Leader sampler in four parts throughout, the Voices Together team has found in testing that it is quite effective to keep the stanzas in unison, breaking into parts at the refrain. Although the melody is written as a soprano line, consider mixing the voices, or having the tenors and sopranos trade parts.
Jesus Entered Egypt
I wrote “Jesus Entered Egypt” in 2007. It appears in Glory to God: the Presbyterian Hymnal (2013). In the 2016 Companion to that hymnal, Carl P. Daw Jr., writes:
“Some sense of the scope of this text can be gained from noticing that the first stanza identifies Jesus as ‘this refugee,’ while the third stanza describes the ‘wandering poor’ who search for ‘a refuge.’ This distance between ‘refugee’ and ‘refuge’ describes the vast area of life where Christians are called to be aware of those whom Jesus called ‘the least of these’ (Matthew 25:40).”
The narrative of the flight into Egypt is an essential part of the Christmas story, but is often overlooked in the midst of joyful carols.
While KING’S WESTON is paired with “At the Name of Jesus” in Hymnal: A Worship Book, some singers may recall its Epiphany association with “From the Eastern Mountains” in the 1969 Mennonite Hymnal. Composer Ralph Vaughan Williams originally intended the tune for unison singing, an option which might allow for a heightened awareness of the text.
See Whose Glory Fills the Skies
“See Whose Glory Fills the Skies” draws upon Charles Wesley’s “Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies” for use with a popular Gospel song tune. The text as found in Hymnal: A Worship Book consists of three stanzas of six lines each, arranged in an ABABCC rhyme scheme. The present version includes four stanzas of two rhyming lines each.
The tune WE’LL WALK IN THE LIGHT has normally been associated with Wesley’s “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” The refrain and the phrase “Jesus, the light of the world!” have remained, providing a response to “See Whose Glory.” While it has origins in white Gospel singing styles, the tune has proven popular and durable in African-American churches. The arrangement by African-American composer Evelyn Simpson-Currenton reflects the influence of jazz and the blues. A robust accompaniment will enable fully engaged singing.
Posted on: January 18th, 2019 by Voices Together Hymnal
Eagerness mounts for Voices Together hymnal coming in 2020
MOUNT PLEASANT, Pa.—“I’m amazed at the exhilaration that comes from a room full of voices singing together,” said Brent Alderfer, a member of Blooming Glen Mennonite Church, Pa. and part of a group of 11 persons from that congregation who joined the annual Laurelville Music and Worship Leaders Retreat in western Pennsylvania in early January.
Anticipation and energy for the new Voices Together music and worship collection, which is nearing the end of the research, song collection, and testing phase, was in high gear at Laurelville. A video of singing, plus a photo gallery by photographer Kreg Ulery of participants enjoying the worship, music, and jam sessions can be found on the website for the hymnal at voicestogetherhymnal.org.
Over 150 participants gathered to test and explore songs in strong consideration for the upcoming hymnal. The retreat focused on sections of the book from “Creation” through “Reign of Christ.”
Attendees learned about the joys and challenges of shaping a worship book for the 21st century church and examined leadership skills to take back to home congregations. Emily Rittenhouse, from Blooming Glen, noted, “I got a better grasp of what an enormous undertaking this has been for the team, and how much that has pulled them away from other important things in their lives.” She added, “It is a sacrifice and a gift that will be interwoven into the songs we sing for decades to come.” Project director Bradley Kauffman estimates the team has reviewed at least 5000 pieces of music.
Michael Bishop, pastor of music, worship and pastoral care at Blooming Glen is enthusiastic about the new collection. “Voices Together will honor our past peoplehood, provide tools for living in these days, and draw us toward the work of God, who is always leading into a new creation,” he said. He notes that the team from their church included choir singers, song leaders, and those involved in leading worship. Robin Schilling, a leader from Blooming Glen added, “I was inspired with new ideas for the coming year.”
Tom Lehman, a member of Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship in Durham, N.C. mentioned, “We were encouraged in considerable detail to sing songs in more than our own native language. The idea, of course, is inclusivity.” Alderfer affirmed, “Singing connects us to people around the world.”
Adam Tice, text editor for the hymnal, suggested that a suitable hymn collection should probably include at least a few hymns that the individual user does not appreciate, always mindful that any particular song may be someone else’s “heart” song which resonates deeply with them.
Mark Diller Harder, pastor of St. Jacobs Mennonite Church in Ontario said “I am filled with deep confidence and trust in this dedicated team. There is thoughtfulness and intentionality that balances continuity and change, all with an openness to the Spirit’s leading.”
Pre-orders and final pricing will be available this summer at the Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA gatherings in June and July, respectively.