WHAT SUPPORTS DO YOU OFFER CONGREGATIONS FOR ADOPTING VOICES TOGETHER?
Voices Together launch resources are found in the resources page of the website.
How can Voices Together products be used to support virtual worship?
These are strange times in which worship planning is met with paradigm-shifting challenges. Worship resources editor Sarah Johnson offers timely counsel in two pieces:
WHERE CAN I VIEW THE LISTS OF SONGS, WORSHIP RESOURCES, AND CONTRIBUTORS?
The 760 songs and 309 worship resources are posted in the form of Voices Together indexes here.
HOW IS VOICES TOGETHER ORGANIZED?
Hymnals are typically organized in one of three ways. They are developed around the Christian year (for example, Advent, Christmas, Good Friday, Easter), around theological concepts (such as God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, church), or around acts of worship (for example, gathering, praising, praying). Many hymnals draw on aspects of all three.
The 1992 Hymnal: A Worship Book is mostly organized by acts of worship. The focus on what songs are doing rather than what they are about was a significant innovation. Voices Together builds on the acts of worship structure started in Hymnal: A Worship Book while developing the model a step further. The collection begins with gathering and concludes with sending—and everything is held within this order of worship. The overall structure looks like this:
- 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, celebrating baptism and communion, sharing our stories, and turning to God in prayer
- Being sent out to share our gifts, living God’s story in witness and service with God’s blessing
Will any of my heart songs be found under familiar page numbers?
We have not numbered the collection yet. The Voices Together team has decided to prioritize the overall organization of the collection above specific numbering given to any one worship resource or song.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE THEOLOGY OF VOICES TOGETHER?
A lot of listening has gone into creating Voices Together. Through focus groups, “heart song” surveys, four samplers, and countless events, the committee has gathered much insight. Voices Together emerges out of this careful listening. It’s our sincere prayer that Voices Together reflects who we are theologically and how we have opened ourselves to movements of the Spirit. We also turn to the Mennonite World Conference Shared Convictions and the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective as points of reference.
Does that mean people will see their personal theology mirrored back on every page? Likely not, as that is not the intent of a hymnal. Rather than a book for personal piety, a denominational hymnal represents the theological breadth of the church. In Voices Together, we seek to represent the theological breadth of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada.
We want Voices Together to connect us with Christians around the world and in our neighborhoods—even those with whom we may disagree theologically. While your congregation might choose not to sing a song for theological reasons, others might find that piece central to faithfully following Jesus.
Voices Together has 992 pages—more than any of our previous hymnals. It features 760 songs and 309 worship resources. As we made space for abundant material, we realize that in many parts of the Mennonite church we worship less frequently than in generations past. Thirty years ago, many Mennonite congregations had Sunday evening worship and midweek services, in addition to Sunday morning services. Today, many consider attending services twice a month to be regular participation. Consider a church that meets weekly and sings five different songs each week. That congregation, for example, sings 260 songs in a year.
It’s been said that a congregation’s musical core contains roughly 200 songs—and the 200 songs in one congregation are likely not the same as in another. For example, in some congregations, hymns form the core, while in others contemporary worship songs are core. We anticipate that congregations will find ample material compatible with their core—as well as plenty of new material to explore and share.
ARE SOME OF THE WORDS CHANGED FROM HYMNAL: A WORSHIP BOOK?
Because we aspire to welcome all in worship, yes. One purpose of hymnal revision is to evaluate the words we use in worship and imagine expansive ways to draw God’s people together. Just as some language was altered in Hymnal: A Worship Book, the Mennonite Worship and Song Committee studied historical versions of pillar hymns and consulted other contemporary hymnals to study the decisions of recent hymnal committees. The Voices Together committee worked to respect and value the living memory of the Mennonite church, so changes were made case by case. When considering language changes, the committee tried to maintain balance. They considered many topics, including ability, geography, race, economic status, and gender—while also respecting the place of lived memory. While some selections have noticeable changes, others remain as presented in Hymnal: A Worship Book.
We prepared a discussion guide concerning expansive language and gendered images of God in Voices Together.
IS IT ETHICAL TO CHANGE THE WORDS TO SOMEONE’S POETRY?
Sometimes it surprises us to learn how many changes a hymn has undergone to get to the form that we know and experience as authoritative. In short, the lives of enduring hymn texts often have been marked by fluidity—sometimes undergoing many changes over decades and centuries whether or not we realize it. When we discover that a familiar and well-established text raises concerns, we are sometimes surprised to learn that the author’s original had more expansive language than the version handed down. Researching original sources is integral to our work.
Many modern writers revise their own work over time. Indeed, some writing included in Hymnal: A Worship Book is no longer authorized by its writers in the form previously published, because of their own spiritual and artistic journeys. In cases like this, we had to agree to their revisions if we wanted to carry certain songs forward into Voices Together. In other cases, we asked living writers to consider changes. We received responses from yes to no to “I like your revision better than my original.” All these sorts of requests are endeavored with respect for the writer, knowing that one’s creative work is highly personal and is often closely linked to one’s convictions.
HOW WERE SONGS SCREENED FOR CONSIDERATION?
Congregations and individuals submitted hundreds of “heart songs” for the committee’s consideration. In addition, writers, artists, songwriters, and composers submitted thousands of pieces of original material. Beyond this, the committee surveyed dozens of hymnals, collections of worship resources, and single-author or single-composer collections.
On January 1, 2017, the Mennonite Worship and Song Committee launched a web portal to receive new and original works of art, worship resources, tunes, texts, and songs. When the submissions period closed on January 1, 2018, we had received some 2,200 submissions.
The committee’s process included preliminary screening, reviews by small teams, and committee discussion and discernment. As they reviewed items for consideration, the committee kept an eye toward achieving a balanced collection with the following:
- Familiar heart songs alongside new worship resources and songs
- Music in many languages and from traditions around the world
- Songs that use a breadth of images for God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit
- Songs that describe our personal relationship with God and that connect us to our community as the body of Christ, and the work of the Spirit in mission to the world
This infographic relays some of the structure and sequence of committee process.
WHAT TYPES OF WORSHIP RESOURCES ARE INCLUDED IN VOICES TOGETHER?
Voices Together includes worship resources as well as songs. As in Hymnal: A Worship Book, there are resources to support central worship practices like baptism, communion, child blessings, marriages, and funerals. Voices Together features Scripture readings arranged for use in worship and other prayers and readings. We are excited to include 12 works of visual art by 12 Anabaptist artists in the hymnal!
HOW ARE ANABAPTIST WRITERS, ARTISTS, COMPOSERS, AND SONGWRITERS REPRESENTED?
Numerous Anabaptist songwriters submitted original work for consideration as well as new tunes for texts selected by the committee. We are excited to maintain important past contributions while also expanding to represent a new generation of Anabaptist writers. And some early Anabaptist writings are presented in new ways. Individuals and teams of Anabaptist writers and artists helped shape worship resources for Voices Together too.
What are SOME NEW FEATURES NOT FOUND IN PREVIOUS MENNONITE HYMNALS?
- Voices Togetheris the first worship and song collection to contain visual art. Twelve pieces of visual art were chosen for inclusion. These 12 pieces of visual art appear throughout Voices Together, inviting worshipers to encounter God in ways that engage sight as well as sound.
- Voices Togetherengages the many technology changes that have happened in recent years. The Voices Together app (available through the GIA Hymnals App platform) and projection edition each offer congregations and individuals new and exciting ways to access music and to participate in worship.
- Voices Together features chord symbols for a majority of songs to resource congregations where guitarists or keyboardists rely on this type of notation.
- Voices Together presents more contemporary worship music and expands our musical vocabulary across many spectrums, in response to wide-ranging expressions of worship in Mennonite congregations.
- Voices Togetherhas more work by Mennonite writers, artists, composers, and songwriters than any previous collection.
- Voices Together features many supports for worship planners, leaders, and pastors. The new worship leader edition is a simple, accessible volume filled with theological grounding, practical suggestions, and words for worship. It includes quick introductions to topics like the Christian year and the use of technology in worship, along with easy-to-use suggestions for preparing prayers. It includes worship resources for the practices central to our faith and life—including baptisms, communion, child blessings, and funerals.
WHAT PORTion of songs are in FOUR-PART HARMONY? What portion are in UNISON?
Of the 760 songs, 58% are four-part. An additional 11% feature some vocal harmonies and 31% are fully unison.
Are AUDIO RECORDINGS OF THE SONGS AVAILABLE?
Yes. We compiled a four-album set of songs from Voices Together available in CD format and on iTunes.
You can purchase digital copies on our website here.
Physical CDs can be purchased on our website here.
Canadian Customers can order CDs here.
HOW is VOICES TOGETHER INDEXED?
Voices Together contains the following indexes:
- Copyright Holders Index
- Contributors Index: Authors, Composers, Artists, Arrangers, and Translators
- Non-English Languages Index
- Topics and Uses in Worship Index
- Scriptural Allusions and References Index
- Metrical Index
- Tune Index
- First Lines and Common Titles Index of Worship Resources
- First Lines and Common Titles Index of Songs
What if I need a large print edition?
Worshipers reach for large-print versions for several reasons. Here are a couple:
- For some of us, the standard pew edition is too small to be legible.
- Some of us like to sit at the piano keyboard and learn new songs. Many keyboard players like to read from the pew edition (reading four-part scores, learning new melodies, or improvising from chord symbols), but the music desk on a piano is not always an optimal distance, making the standard pew edition too small.
Voices Together offers two solutions (these are exact copies of the pew edition).
- App edition. The digital app edition of Voices Togethercan be scaled to a desirable size. A larger tablet can be a good solution to combine portability (lightweight) and readability (scalable).
- Large-print/keyboard edition. Users may want to modify this soft-cover edition by having a local print shop remove the binding and add holes for use in a binder.
Accompanists who accompany singing by reading notated scores will find the Voices Together accompaniment edition essential. This horizontally oriented volume (available as a bound book or via an app) contains over 350 notated accompaniments and dozens of reference notes that offer context and guidance on leading and accompanying congregational song.
How Many items ARE IN LANGUAGES OTHER THAN ENGLISH?
All told, there are roughly 50 languages represented among the worship resources and songs in Voices Together. The largest concentrations of non-English language pieces are Spanish (59), German (24), and French (20).
If my congregation purchases the Voices Together projection edition, will we still need our CCLI or One License memberships?
Yes. Voices Together is made up of material both from the public domain (material that is no longer under copyright because of its age or other factors) and from works under copyright (content owned and controlled by its creator or a publisher). When a piece of music is printed in a hymnal, the publisher pays a set copyright rate per unit printed. The process is different for projecting copyrighted files, however, because those licensing fees are based on how many people are in the congregation or audience. Therefore, obtaining a projection license is the onus of each congregation that wishes to project such files.
Content that is in the public domain can be projected without further accountability. Items under copyright require special licensure each time they are projected. In the case of the projection edition, MennoMedia publishes the images, but the mechanism for acquiring the right to project copyrighted content onto a screen is available only through licensing agencies.
Can we use the projection edition in our online church services or YouTube videos?
CCLI and One License also govern and have separate licenses for churches that want to use the projection edition as part of a streaming service, either over the Internet, via Zoom, or via a recorded service that is viewed via the Internet. This is separate from the license needed to project in your church.
If you intend to use the projection edition as part of a service that is streamed or recorded for later viewing online, please be sure to check with CCLI and One License to make sure the license you have or are purchasing includes streaming.
CCLI and One License were created to assist churches with copyright issues, and working with them makes the permission-seeking process simple. Purchasing a license for your congregation gives you the ability to reprint or project the hymns and songs that are registered to each agency without seeking individual permission. For their guidelines and a list of the songs and publishers they cover, visit their websites at http://www.ccli.com/ and https://www.onelicense.net/.
What will Voices Together cost my congregation?
WHAT IF A BOX ARRIVES DAMAGED?
If a box arrives damaged, do not open the box before taking pictures to document its condition. Next, open the box and take pictures to show how it was packaged, including the packing materials. If product is damaged and needs to be replaced, start a UPS claim at https://www.ups.com/us/en/help-center/claims-support.page. This website has concise instructions on how to file a claim. High-quality photos are key in the success of getting books replaced.
Will there be launch events for Voices Together?
- Sunday, December 13, 2020, online (details will be available here)
HOW DO I SET UP A VOICES TOGETHER EVENT IN MY CONGREGATION?
Many congregations and regions are eager to host Voices Together trainings. The Voices Together committee comprises 12 volunteers and 1 paid staff member who devoted years to this far-reaching project as a gift to the church. Committee members are eager to help introduce Voices Together as their schedules permit. MennoMedia provides a suggested fee schedule for engaging members of the Voices Together team in