This article originally appeared on Mennonite Church USA’s MennoSnapshots blog.
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.
The Shared Convictions are available online in additional languages.
Winter Leader pages 55-71
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.