Why a new hymnal for 2020?

Some note that Mennonites do not have a liturgy or a set form of worship, but point out that it is in singing together week after week that Mennonites rehearse and express their Christian faith. If you look at copies of Hymnal: A Worship Book in church pews, you see that they have been well-loved and well-used since that book came out in 1992.

In spring 2008, Mennonite Church Canada, Mennonite Church USA, and MennoMedia’s predecessor—Mennonite Publishing Network—started exploring the need for a new hymnal by surveying worship and music leaders in Mennonite congregations. That work continued in summer 2011, when “The Heart of Mennonite Worship” was released as a jointly produced study guide inviting Mennonite congregations to think more deeply about worship and music. Out of that study, congregations were asked to submit the songs sung each week, through an online survey. In late 2014, the Joint Executive Committee of Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA gave the green light to a new song collection project with the understanding that while MennoMedia is the publisher, it should do so in close partnership with the denominations. Voices Together will succeed Hymnal: A Worship Book (1992), which replaced The Mennonite Hymnal (1969).

Hymnals are generational. They are of a particular time. Pick up any historic hymn collection and you will discover the theological, political, and social challenges that a particular generation faced. You will find a unique window into who worshipers understood God to be. Our understandings about God and being God’s people are fluid, not static. God is revealed to us as we open ourselves to language and art forms old and new, from near and far.

Mennonites are asking for increased offerings of songs and worship resources that make space for lament, creation care, and honoring life stages to name a few.

Who will Voices Together serve?

Voices Together is being designed to serve Mennonite congregations across North America—and others who have affinity for Anabaptist theology and share our passion for music in worship. It will take into account the breadth and diversity of the Mennonite Church, the varied ways Mennonites sing and worship, and new digital technologies.

Will my favorite song still be in the same place in Voices Together?

No promises are being made about what will—or won’t—be in the new song collection, or where. Like Hymnal: A Worship Book, Voices Together will be organized to reflect an order of worship.

We received hundreds of heart song survey responses throughout our intentional listening phase (2017). We’ve now turned our attention full time to processing those requests and thousands of submitted and gathered pieces of content.

How many songs and worship resources will be in Voices Together?

Since the release of Hymnal: A Worship Book in 1992, advancements in paper offer us a scenario in which we expect to be able to publish 30% more pages without sacrificing durability or expanding the thickness of the book. How this translates into precise numbers of selections is an ever-unfolding picture, since worship resources and songs vary in length and how much “real estate” any individual selection may occupy. The short answer? More selections than HWB.

What kind of app and projection edition are you considering?

We plan to offer an Android and iOS tablet version. Because many congregations project music or text on a screen, we also plan to offer a projection edition via USB drive, which will include both musically notated slides, and slides with just the words.

Will there be a recorded version?

Some recordings may be part of the project, as budget and committee time allow. The app edition will allow us to embed audio samples on each hymnal page when available.

How can my congregation interface with the ongoing work of Voices Together?

Leader Magazine will feature sample material for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany of 2018. Please engage these resources and share a survey response.  Plans are underway to offer a similar sampling in the Winter (Lent/Easter 2019) edition.

If we’re in your area, consider attending:

I have more questions. Who can answer them?

Contact Bradley Kauffman at BradleyK@MennoMedia.org.

Voices Together Committee

Bradley Kauffman of Cincinnati, Ohio, is the project director and general editor for the new song collection and can be reached at BradleyK@MennoMedia.org. Specialized editors include:

The remainder of the committee, alphabetically by last name, include:

You can read more about these appointments here and here.