As Voices Together nears publication, the Mennonite Worship and Song Committee editorial team has assigned the roughly 750 songs across the table of contents and selected the song that will appear first in the collection.
“The first hymn among the hundreds found in a hymnal shouldn’t matter, but it does,” says Rebecca Slough, managing editor for Hymnal: A Worship Book (1992). The first selection in any hymnal “calls God’s people to sing; announces why we are gathered here; and sets the tone, rhythm and harmonies for the adventures in singing that shape the Body of Christ we will become.”
No. 1 in Voices Together will be “Summoned by the God Who Made Us,” a text by Sister Delores Dufner, OSB, paired with the hymn tune NETTLETON. The first verse celebrates the church’s foundational unity in Christ and calls God’s people to live in relationship: “Summoned by the God who made us / rich in our diversity / gathered in the name of Jesus / richer still in unity.” The refrain follows: “Let us bring the gifts that differ / and, in splendid, varied ways / sing a new church into being / one in faith and love and praise.”
The tune is commonly recognized as the music for “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” It was chosen for the variety of ways it can be led and accompanied. The Voices Together accompaniment edition will include multiple accompaniment options, ranging from folk instrument scorings to organ and brass. The tune lends itself well to be led in the style of contemporary worship music or sung in parts a cappella.
General editor Bradley Kauffman says, “Hymnal-using Mennonites develop strong associations with numbers, and we are often asked, ‘What will be number one?’ In selecting Sister Delores’s text, we are drawn to how her prayer for the church may find immediate resonance with a versatile tune.” In addition, Kauffman affirms that “Dedication Anthem (Praise God)” will appear in the “Praising” section of the collection, among the first hundred songs. In the committee’s four years of production work, many have also asked where this song—No. 118 in Hymnal: A Worship Book and No. 606 in The Mennonite Hymnal (1969)—will be placed.
“We weighed this decision carefully, and listened to voices advocating for many different options,” he says. “Ultimately, we decided to give priority to sequencing songs, including this one, within the Voices Together table of contents structure.”