Voices Together

Voices Together and creation care

(Photo by Luis Poletti/Unsplash)

If you are anything like me, you are missing singing hymns as a congregation during this pandemic. Hymns are such a vital part of expressing our faith. We find comfort in the melodies and texts from prophets, mystics, church leaders and hymnists. The formation of a new hymnal shows what we as a church body believe, what issues we are struggling with and how our faith is evolving.

Watch: Behind the music with Phil Campbell-Enns

Phil Campbell-Enns has two compositions in the new hymnal: “Mountain of God” and “Fill Us with Your Feast.” He wrote the latter as part of Leader magazine’s 2007 Lent material. (Screenshot)

Winnipeg pastor and songwriter Phil Campbell-Enns is the latest person featured in a new video series from MennoMedia showcasing Anabaptist contributions to the new Voices Together hymnal.

In the four-and-a-half-minute video, which ends with a performance of the song, Campbell-Enns recalls writing “Fill Us with Your Feast,” which is #309 in Voices Together.

Lecture-recital highlights women composers

Sisters Joanna, left, and Anneli Loepp Thiessen presented several hymns in the Voices Together collection by women composers, at a recent lecture-recital. (Screenshot by Janet Bauman)

Celebrating the contribution of women composers in Voices Together means reclaiming the voices of historical women whose work has been overlooked and also to “elevate the voices of women who are living,” said Anneli Loepp Thiessen.

A hymn by any other number

Apart from communities in the eastern United States, where the song was previously known, Mary Oyer and her committee colleagues had presumed the song would appeal primarily to church choirs looking for a challenge. (Photo by Merrill Miller)

Some urged the Mennonite Worship and Song Committee that produced the new Voices Together hymnal to correct the 1992 treatment by assigning the song its ‘rightful place’ between 605 and 607. (Photo by Merrill Miller)

When hymnologist Mary Oyer travelled from Uganda to Oregon to attend the 1969 Mennonite Church general assembly, she was surely filled with anticipation. She arrived in the second week of August to attend the dedication of a new denominational worship book, The Mennonite Hymnal (1969), which the General Conference Mennonite Church would also use.

Reconciliation recommendations for worship

(Photo by Daniel Tseng/Unsplash)

In an Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary course for worship leaders engaging the new Voices Together hymnal, we were asked to consider the following question for an assignment:

How can our congregaton's worship focus more on justice and racial reconciliation?
We found some resonance in our respective responses and collaborated to share them more broadly. We offer these suggestions not as a comprehensive list, but as a starting point for congregations who are considering this very same question.

Watch: A tour of Voices Together

Waterloo Region music teacher Melinda Metzger with her copy of Voices Together.

It may be aimed at children, but everyone will learn something from a video exploring the new Voices Together hymnal.

The video walks viewers through everything that is on a hymnal page, as well as many of the hymnal’s indices. Melinda Metzger, a Waterloo Region music educator, created the video for the Sunday morning children’s time at St. Jacobs (Ont.) Mennonite Church.

Together in Worship launches in collaboration with CommonWord

Together In Worship logo

The Together in Worship leadership team is pictured from left to right, top row: Jerry Holsopple, Darryl Neustaedter Barg and Rebecca Slough; middle row: Katie Graber, Sarah Kathleen Johnson and Carol Penner; and front row: Arlyn Friesen Epp and AnaSara Rojas. (Together in Worship screenshot)

While Mennonites across Canada and the United States eagerly await the arrival of the new hymnal, Voices Together, hundreds of online worship resources are already accessible to them through a brand new website that launched in November.

Mennonite milestones through an artist’s lens

Lynda Toews painted “Psalm 19” to commemorate the launch of Voices Together. (Photo courtesy of Lynda Toews)

Unintentional figures, like a fish and an eagle, appear in Lynda Toews’s painting. (Photo courtesy of Lynda Toews)

Lynda Toews created a quilt with Cheryl Warkentin, in honour of Mennonite Central Committee’s 100th anniversary. (Photo courtesy of Lynda Toews)

Lynda Toews is Bethel Mennonite Church’s artist-in-residence for 2020-21. (Photo courtesy of Lynda Toews)

The year 2020 featured some big moments in the Mennonite world. MennoMedia launched Voices Together, the new worship and song collection; and Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) celebrated its centennial.

Release dates for Voices Together announced

MennoMedia will begin shipping Voices Together print products in November but most digital products will be available in mid-October 2020. On Oct. 19, the app versions of the pew edition, the accompaniment edition, and the worship leader edition will be available as in-app purchases. This app is available in the Hymnals app for both iOS phones and iPads. MennoMedia previously advertised that the app was also available for Android tablets.

Together, in song

(Photo courtesy of Mennonite Church Canada)

The last time my church sang together was March 8, the second Sunday in Lent. Since then, my singing has consisted of one backyard, physically distant, “Happy Birthday” and my lone voice following the congregation’s pre-recorded music on the screen.  

Voices Together announces No. 1 hymn

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. (MennoMedia photo)

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.

Music leaders sing hymnal preview

Musicians, in foreground from left, Merrill Miller, Alissa Bender, Perry Blosser, Rosene Rohrer and Andrea Weber Steckly accompany a song during the Worship and Music Leaders Retreat on Jan. 10-12 at Laurelville retreat center in Mount Pleasant, Pa. (Photo by Kreg Ulery)

In the 1980s, Ken Nafziger drew inspiration from publisher and camp association president Levi Miller, and began leading a music retreat at Laurelville.

Watch: 'Peace be with you' in nine languages

In a new video, folks from Ontario Mennonite Music Camp demonstrate how to say “Peace be with you” in nine languages. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)

Peace Sunday is coming up on Nov. 10 and Ontario Mennonite Music Camp has created a resource to help churches mark the occasion. 

In the short video below, OMMC campers and staff demonstrate how to say “Peace be with you” in Amharic, French, German, Lao, Mandarin, Spanish and three other languages.

Voices Together committee holds final meeting

A stack of 780 songs greeted members of the Mennonite Worship and Song Committee when they arrived for their final meeting. (Photos courtesy of MennoMedia)

Committee members pictured from left to right, front row: Tom Harder, Shana Peachey Boshart, Anneli Loepp Thiessen, Katie Graber, Amy Gingerich and Benjamin Bergey; and back row: Adam Tice, Sarah Johnson, Doug Klassen, Cynthia Neufeld Smith, Allan Rudy-Froese, Mike Erb, Bradley Kauffman, Paul Dueck and Darryl Neustaedter Barg.

Committee members Tom Harder and Mike Erb provide accompaniment for the singing.

Benjamin Bergy, Katie Graber, Anneli Loepp Thiessen and Cynthia Neufeld Smith test out different versions of a piano accompaniment for a song.

Sarah Johnson and Doug Klassen discuss the visual art that will be part of Voices Together.

A stack of paper containing 780 songs and a binder of 320 worship resources greeted each member of the Voices Together committee when they arrived for their 10th and final committee meeting in early October.

Voices Together hymnal discounts extended

HARRISONBURG, Va.—Due to a high response rate, MennoMedia is extending the Voices Together case quantity discount until Dec. 1, 2019. The quantity discount was to be for the first 10,000 copies of the pew edition sold. But presales surpassed 10,000 copies by the first week in October. The case quantity discount for Voices Together—5 percent off orders of 5 to 9 cases and 7 percent off orders of 10 or more cases—will end Dec. 1, 2019. However, the 10 percent prepay discount will remain in effect until May 1, 2020.

A farewell to the ‘blue hymnal’

Eighty people from different Mennonite churches, denominations and even provinces participated in Sargent Avenue Mennonite’s hymnal sing-a-thon weekend at the end of September. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

Singers sang all 658 hymns from Hymnal: A Worship Book and raised $800 to help Sargent Avenue Mennonite Church purchase copies of the new Voices Together hymnal. (Photo by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe)

Over the span of a single weekend, Sean Goerzen sang or played every single hymn in the blue-backed Hymnal: A Worship Book. All 658 of them. “I feel like I know the hymnal in a very intimate way now,” he says with a laugh.

Voices Together taking pre-orders, website redesign goes live

HARRISONBURG, Va.—MennoMedia is now taking pre-orders for Voices Together, the new hymnal releasing in fall 2020. Pre-order sales of the new worship and song collection coincide with the launch of the newly designed VoicesTogetherHymnal.org website. The updated site includes information on the hymnal’s table of contents, FAQs, bundles and ordering information, samples of projection edition files, and much more.

Come to the table

Sarah Kathleen Johnson, far right, talks with participants, from right to left, Eva Cressman, Carl Bear and Carrie Martens, at the two-part Anabaptist Learning Workshop worship clinic she led on communion at Rockway Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ont., in March. (Photo by Janet Bauman)

For two evenings in March, Sarah Kathleen Johnson led an Anabaptist Learning Workshop focused on the ritual of communion, at Rockway Mennonite Church in Kitchener.

Bringing diverse voices together

Anneli Loepp Thiessen is pictured playing piano for worship at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg. (Photo courtesy of Anneli Loepp Thiessen)

The Mennonite Worship and Song Committee met in Cincinnati in July, 2018. Pictured from left to right, front row: Cynthia Neufeld Smith, Jackson, Miss.; Adam Tice, Goshen, Ind.; Anneli Loepp Thiessen, Ottawa; and Benjamin Bergey, Harrisonburg, Va.; and back row: SaeJin Lee, Elkhart, Ind.; Tom Harder, Hillsboro, Kan.; Allan Rudy-Froese, Kitchener, Ont.; Mike Erb, New Hamburg, Ont.; Bradley Kauffman, Cincinnati, Ohio; Darryl Neustaedter Barg, Winnipeg; Sarah Kathleen Johnson, Toronto; and Katie Graber, Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Darryl Neustaedter Barg)

Mennonites are stereotyped as people who love singing and forming committees.

Anneli Loepp Thiessen fulfills both of these stereotypes. The 23-year-old is one of 12 people from Canada and the United States who make up the Voices Together committee charged with making a new Mennonite hymnal planned for release in 2020.

Voices Together visual art chosen

‘Alive,’ a pen and ink drawing by Anne H. Berry, chosen for the theme of ‘the death and resurrection of Jesus.’ (Courtesy of MennoMedia)

‘Nine patch No. 8,’ a monotype by Brenton Good, chosen for the theme of ‘praying.’ (Courtesy of MennoMedia)

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.

Eastern Canada youth sing from hymnal-in-progress

SAUBLE BEACH, ONT.—Mennonite Church Eastern Canada hosted its annual youth retreat on the first weekend of February at Silver Lake Mennonite Camp, Sauble Beach, Ont. This year, more than 40 youth from seven regional churches attended the retreat, says Jean Lehn Epp, interim youth ministry resources coordinator. This number has declined in recent years, with the trend towards more local retreats, she says, adding that, for those who attend, retreats are valuable times for youth to connect and relate with young people from other churches.

Is there such a thing as a Mennonite song?

Darryl Neustaedter Barg leads worship in Laurelville, Pa. last month. (Photo by Kreg Ulery)

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.

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