In 2017, the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship awarded members of the Voices Together hymnal committee a grant to explore Mennonite worship in communities that worship primarily in languages beyond English.
“Jesus had a lot to say about money, but the songs we sing in worship rarely do.” These words from the album description of Bryan Moyer Suderman’s 2007 album, My Money Talks, provide a snapshot into the goal of the album: to intentionally provide songs for churches that help them talk about money.
(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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of the most potent ways we cope with hardship is by singing and praying together. Amid the loss of in-person gathering, congregations have shown a tremendous amount of creativity, whether worshiping via video conference platforms such as Zoom, livestreaming a service, or pre-recording the service.
In the 1980s, Ken Nafziger drew inspiration from publisher and camp association president Levi Miller, and began leading a music retreat at Laurelville.
When some of the individuals working on the forthcoming Voices Together hymnal needed help with a big task, they called their moms.
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.
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.
Benjamin Bergy, Katie Graber, Anneli Loepp Thiessen and Cynthia Neufeld Smith test out different versions of a piano accompaniment for a song.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.